December 23

Books I Read – Oct-Dec 2013

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It seems like I read quite a few books these past three months, but truth be told, I just “finished” quite a few books. I’ve been reading them for quite a while (ha). Here’s what I “finished,” October through December:

20th Century Ghosts

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

I love short stories and novellas. There is something satisfying about a short, concisely told story. The stories in this collection run the gamut between scary, sad, sweet and strange. As with all short story collections, you’ll like some more than others, but it you love horror and short stories, I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy this book.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

This book is a mystery, a story about friendship and a look at growing up in a small town in rural Mississippi in the 1970’s. Larry Ott, the child of working-class white parents and Silas “32” Jones, the son of a poor, single black mother, were boyhood pals, but their brief friendship fractured. Silas went on to become a high school baseball star while Larry was relegated to “weirdo” status. Larry goes from harmless to dangerous when he picks up a girl for a drive-in movie date, and she is never seen again. More than twenty years pass. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned to town as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. Now the two men who once called each other “friend” are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades. I found this book to have a compelling story, thrilling (and creepy) elements and interesting characters.

 The Small Hand And Dolly

 The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill

This is a pair of ghost stories. Each deals with impulsive childhood wickedness and the malevolent persistence of the past. I enjoyed reading both of the stories and read them quickly. They both gave me that haunting, gothic feel that I love in a ghost story.

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

I listened to The Casual Vacancy as an audiobook. This is a wonderful novel if you love characters and subtlety. Set in Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English town, a vacancy on the parish council becomes the catalyst that exposes all manner of conflict. This is not a fast moving story. I’m glad I picked this up as an audiobook because the slower pace didn’t bother me as much as it may have if I were reading it.

Joyland

Joyland by Stephen King

I also listened to this book on audio. Joyland tells the story of college student Devin Jones who spends one summer working in a small North Carolina amusement park in 1973. During that time, Devin comes to grips with growing up, confronts the legacy of a vicious murder and befriends a dying child and his mother. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so take my recommendation knowing that, but I truly enjoyed this book and would have whether I read it or listened to it.

The Rathbones

The Rathbones by Janice Clark

Another audiobook I listened to. According to a description of the book, it is “a gothic, literary adventure set in New England, chronicling one hundred years of a once prosperous and now crumbling whaling family, told by its last surviving member.” I don’t think that’s a completely accurate description. There were strong fantasy and mythic elements to this book. If you enjoy that type of story, you may enjoy this book. For me, I didn’t mind listening to it in the car, but if I had been reading it, I may have given it up.

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December 11

Bas Bleu Book Of The Month 2014

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Back in October, I was musing over whether I wanted to set myself a reading plan in 2014. Shortly after that, I was looking at one of my favorite catalogs, Bas Bleu, and saw that they had a Book of the Month 2014. This appeals to me because it will encourage me to read books I wouldn’t otherwise pick up. Here’s what’s coming my way.

The Girls of Atomic City

January – The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

The Glimpses of the Moon

February – The Glimpses of the Moon by Edmund Crispin

The Map of Lost Memories

March – The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay

Hons and Rebels

April – Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

Fear in the Sunlight

May – Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson

Tigers In Red Weather

June – Tigers In Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

The Summer House

July – The Summer House by Alice Thomas Ellis

Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog

August – Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog by Jamie Ivey

Still Life

September – Still Life by Louise Penny

The Mystery Box

October – The Mystery Box edited by Brad Metzler

The Horologicon

November – The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth

Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie

December – Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford

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October 2

Books I Read – Jul-Sep 2013

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Here’s what I’ve been reading the last three months…

A Land More Kind Than Home

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

This novel is set in a small North Carolina town and revolves around family, secrets, love, evil and tragedy. The characters are strongly drawn, but you always have the sense that you don’t know everything that going on. This novel is narrated by three voices; Jess, a young boy; Adelaide, the town midwife; and Clem, the town sheriff.   At the center of the present day story is a evil charismatic pastor. This novel is heartbreaking, memorable and a great pick if you like southern novels with a dark, tragic bend. This would make a great book club pick because there’s a lot to talk about.

Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

This is a horror story…Judas Coyne is a semi-retired, heavy metal rocker who collects macabre objects. When a suit, said to be haunted by the owner’s ghost is offered in an online auction, he purchases it. I’ll leave it at that. Great characters, a compelling story. If you love horror, give this one a try. Fun fact…Joe Hill is the son of Stephen & Tabitha King.

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June 26

Books I Read – Apr-Jun 2013

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Here’s what I read the last three months:

The House At Riverton

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

This is the first Kate Morton book I’ve read, and it was her debut novel. The main story is set in England between the wars, but the story is told in flashbacks by a woman who witnessed the action and kept a secret all her life. I enjoyed this story immensely and will read more of Kate Morton’s books. If you are intrigued by this era, are a fan of Downton Abbey or enjoy the upstairs/downstairs way of life, you would most likely enjoy this book. I know I did.

Tinkers

Tinkers by Paul Harding

Tinkers won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2010. It’s a short book at 191 pages, and if you liked the books you read in English Literature classes, you will probably enjoy it. George Washington Crosby is dying. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, his memories intertwine with those of his father and his mother. The language is beautiful and often poetic as it explores the themes of life and death and what lies in between. This is not an easy read. It has a disjointed quality as it follows George’s dreams and hallucinations, but the images and ideas are vivid and thought-provoking. I imagine this is a book that is even better with every reading. I enjoyed it very much.

A Fine Place For Death

A Fine Place for Death by Ann Granger

I listened to this book on audio. When two young girls are brutally slain in the English market town of Bamford, one the heiress to one of Bamford’s oldest aristocratic families, Inspector Alan Markby and his pal Meredith Mitchel search for the murderer. A Fine Place for Death is the sixth book in the Markby & Mitchell Village Whodunit Series. I loved the characters and the setting, but the “mystery” was not satisfying. Perhaps if I started with the first book and read through to this one, I would have enjoyed it more.

Conversations With Woo

Conversations with Woo by Meg Trafford

I haven’t read many pet books. I have mixed emotions about them. On the one hand, I enjoy reading about another person’s special relationship with their pets, something I can relate to since I have pets I love dearly. On the other hand, I always feel slightly uneasy because just like with kids, pet parents have strong opinions about the way they raise and care for their pets. If you completely align with a particular author, I imagine you feel great about the book. If you hold different opinions, you feel a bit uncomfortable.

That being said, I enjoyed reading Conversations with Woo. Meg speaks openly and honestly about her life and the part pets have played in it. Her relationship with her pups, particularly Woo, chronicles a beautiful love story and she shares many of the life lessons they taught her. I read this book very quickly, which is a testament to the author’s writing and not to my reading speed. If you like to read pet books, this is a wonderful pick.

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March 27

Books I Read – Jan-Mar 2013

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Here’s what I’ve read the last three months:

In The Garden Of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

I’m a fan of Erik Larson. I’ve read two of his books, The Devil in the White City, about the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and Isaac’s Storm, about the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. In the Garden of Beasts is primarily set in 1930’s Berlin during the early years of Hitler’s rise to power.  The focus is both on the American Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, and his family and the many events, both large and small, that lead to Hitler’s seizing absolute power. Although Erik Larson’s books are scrupulously researched non-fiction, they read like narrative fiction. This is an insightful examination of the cumulative power of small, overlooked acts of evil.

Wow! That was a short list. Hopefully, I’ll be able to double my reading April through June.

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December 29

Books I Read October-December

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Here’s what I read during the last three months:

Broken Harbor

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken Harbor is Tana French’s fourth Dublin Murder Squad novel. I am a huge Tana French fan because she writes a first-rate police procedural mystery, her characters are complex and compelling, and she explores both human weakness and larger societal issues. Each of the Dublin Murder Squad books is set up so that a minor character in one book shows up as the protagonist in another. It’s not necessary to read the books in any particular order since other than this particular connection, each book stands by itself. My favorite…#2 The Likeness…but I love them all.

Daily Inspiration

DI 363

Medicine for the soul.

Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

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October 20

Books That Made A Difference

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I have long been a fan of a feature in O Magazine called Books That Made A Difference, where a celebrity lists several books that made a difference in their life.  Recently, I saw a post on Staying Awake where Jan listed her top titles.  She was inspired by a post on The Solitary Walker.  I’ve always wanted to compose my list and here it is (in no particular order)…books that made a difference to me.

1.  The Bible.  Any translation for informing how I live, the King James Version for the majesty of the language.

2.  Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.  The book that made me a life-long reader.

3.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  My perfect heroine.

4.  Atonement by Ian McEwan.  A beautiful novel that captures the messiness of life and the consequences of our sometimes horrible choices.

5.  Little Golden Book – The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids.  My mom would do the different voices when she read this to me.  My favorite fairy tale.  I wish I still had my copy.

6.  The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  A fascinating story that illustrates how people, place and time help form who we are.

7.  Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.  The first Shakespeare play I read and still my favorite.  Who can resist star-crossed lovers and a blood feud.

8.  Anything by Agatha Christie.  I love mysteries.  Agatha Christie introduced me to adult mysteries and is the Grande Dame to me.

9.  Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  A frightening look at the thin veneer of civilization.

10.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  My favorite tale of redemption.

What are books that made a difference to you?

Daily Inspiration

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.

Edward P. Morgan

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September 29

Books I Read April – September

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Here’s what I’ve read during the last six months:

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered.  Based, in part, on her testimony, her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, is convicted of the murders.  Twenty-five years later, The Kill Club, a society obsessed with notorious crimes, locates Libby and offers her money to reconnect with people from that time in her life.  As the stories are revealed, Libby must confront the fact that her testimony may not have been as solid as she believed.  This is a dark book throughout and not for the squeamish.  I enjoyed this book because the story was interesting, and even more so, the characters were interesting.  All the characters were extremely gritty, but very human and believable.  I was a little dissatisfied with the ending, but not enough to prevent me from recommending the book.  I want to read more by Gillian Flynn.

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

The Janus Stone is the second Ruth Galloway mystery.  When a child’s headless skeleton turns up during an archeological dig, forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway determines that the bones are of recent origin which spurs an investigation.  Although this isn’t my favorite mystery series, I’ll continue to read them because I find the archeological backdrop and details fascinating, and Ruth is an interesting heroine.

The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine

I selected this book as part of the South Asian Challenge 2012 I’m participating in this year.  Stumbling upon books like The Blue Notebook is one of the reasons I encourage people to participate in book clubs, reading challenges and anything else that makes them step outside of their comfort zone.  The Blue Notebook is poetry, written as prose.  The subject is heartbreaking and unbearable…sexual slavery and child prostitution.  The story is frank, surprisingly hopeful, and a testament to the human spirit and the power of storytelling.  I highly recommend this book.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher has a razor sharp, irrevent wit and impressive insightfulness.  This book is based on one of her stand-up routines.  I like Carrie Fisher and her sense of humor, so I enjoyed this book.  If you’re not familiar with Carrie Fisher and her life, you may find it a bit disjointed.  I have not read anything else by Carrie Fisher but I would like to in the future.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Audiobook)

A lost manuscript, a reluctant witch, a 1,500-year-old vampire and a mystery launch this trilogy.  I listened to this audiobook and while I enjoyed it, my friends who read the book were more enthusiastic about it.  I think I may have missed some of the richness of the novel by listening to it rather than reading it.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Audiobook)

Last year, when I highlighted a favorite book for my Saturday posts, this book was one of my picks.  I equally enjoyed listening to this book.  Jayne Entwistle perfectly captures the precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, the protagonist of this mystery series.  If you enjoy clever, fun mysteries that are very British and involve an unconvenional heroine, please introduce yourself to Flavia de Luce.

Guilt By Degrees by Marcia Clark (Audiobook)

Marcia Clark is probably best known as the lead prosecutor in the OJ Simpson trial, but she is also a writer.  Guilt By Degrees is the second Rachel Knight mystery.    Rachel Knight is a D.A. in Los Angeles, California.  When she takes on the case of a murdered homeless man, she not only pits herself against a formidable opponent, she must also come to terms with the ghosts of her past.  Rachel Knight is not just a sharp and savvy investigator, she is a fascinating character all-around.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will read the first book in the series.

Daily Inspiration

 

A good book has no ending.

R.D. Cumming

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March 31

Books I Read In February & March

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Two books for my book club, one audio book and one squeezed in-between.

 

Comfort Me With Apples is a memoir of Ruth Reichl, former restaurant critic of The New York Times and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine.  Set in the 1970’s, it traces Reichl’s evolution from chef to food writer while also detailing the events both in her personal life and in the great revolution in American cuisine.

Unbroken is the story of Louie Zamperini–a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean.  What happened to him over the next three years of his life is a story of an amazing man who somehow maintained his sense of self and his humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered.

The Weird Sisters is the story of three sisters…one who never left home, and two who return home to help their mother battle cancer.   Each sister is at a crosspoint in life  The book explores the family dynamics of sisterhood, and it’s a fascinating look at naming, birth order and the twists of life.

The Crossing Places is the first mystery in a series featuring archeologist Ruth Galloway, of Norfolk, England.  Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson asks for Ruth’s expertise in identifying human remains found in a marsh near Ruth’s home.  The remains date to the Iron Age.  Harry is haunted by the kidnapping of 5-year-old Lucy Downey, and he thought the remains could be her’s.  When another young girl goes missing, Ruth and Harry fear the kidnapper is at work again.  Ruth is an interesting  heroine,  and the novel’s archeological details added a lot of interest.

Daily Inspirations

 

Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

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January 28

Books I Read In January

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I’m a slow reader, so this type of post will not be a monthly feature; but this month I read three books, so I decided to do a quick review.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This was the January selection for my book club and a feast for an English major’s heart.  What I loved most was the paradoxical philosophy of the book…we have control of nothing, we have control of everything.  The consensus of the group was that it was a wonderful read; although some members enjoyed it more as an audio book since much of the dialog is written in a dialect.  It is the story of Janie Crawford, and her journey through life and to herself.  In beautiful language, it captures the stuff of life…love, loss, pain, friendship, humor and joy.  It’s all there.

The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar

This was a readalong I participated in at S. Krishna’s Books.  It’s also the first book I read for the South Asian Challenge.  Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita and Nishta were college student in 1970’s India, but have drifted apart over the years.  When Armaiti, who moved to America, is diagnosed with cancer, the other three friends decide to visit her one last time.  The journey towards the visit is where all the action takes place, as all the women deal with what their lives mean, their regrets and the compromises they made along the way.  The language and writing is so beautiful it took my breath away, and Ms. Umrigar’s eye for relationships strikes right to the heart.  Loved it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The title was the first thing that piqued my interest, then I started hearing positive reviews, so I decided to give it a try.  Set in 1946, this is the story of Juliet Ashton, a writer who gets to know some of the residents of the island of Guernsey.  Through their correspondence, she learns how they endured the German occupation, and how their extraordinary society helped them through.  What I enjoyed most about this novel was it is written entirely in letters between the characters.  Because of this, you learn about the characters the same way you would as if you were corresponding with someone.  The writing is at turns sharp, witty and poignant.  Again, loved it.

If you love beautiful writing and compelling characters, any one of these books would do you well.  If you like action and a complex story line, these may not suit you.

 

Now for a little fun.  I actually won an Advance Reader’s Edition of The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar, and I’d love to pass it along.  Just leave a comment on today’s post by Monday, January 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST, and I’ll draw a name on Tuesday, January 31, 2012.

Daily Inspiration

Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.

Isola Pribby – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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