Thursday, February 28, 2019

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

It's that time again - time to go through all of my "saves" on Facebook and get around to reading (and sharing) the bookish posts. Because I have 72 unread saves!

First up, some links about historical fiction:

*BookBub gives us a list of 18 Fantastic New Historical Fiction Books for Book Clubs. These are no longer necessarily "new" books but there are still some excellent choices for book clubs. My club will be reading Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone, which is included on the list.

*Also from BookBub, 28 Historical Fiction Novels That Will Make You Cry. I've read 12 of the books on the list and can attest to 11 of them having made me a teary, often sobbing, mess.

*BookBub also give us 26 Ridiculously Good Historical Fiction Books, According To Readers. Many of these appear on the other lists but there are some surprises here as well, including Larry McMurtry's Dead Man's Walk.

*From Bustle comes a list of 11 Historical Romances To Pick Up Instead Of Re-Reading Pride and Prejudice. Now, I am always for a re-read of Pride and Prejudice but I'm not opposed to finding other books that will give me the same feels. I've only read a couple of these so I can't vouch for the staying power of these books, but I'm up to giving them a try.

If you're looking for other books to give you all the feels, check this out:

*Book Riot gives us a list of 8 Tragicomic Memoirs to Make You Laugh and Cry.  I've never read any of these book, but several are on my bookshelves.

And I'm finally getting around to looking at the best of 2018 lists. You know, so I can read all of the books on them that I never got around to reading last year!

*Time magazine's Best Fiction Books of 2018. I've read three of these books; two of them appeared on my 2018 best-of list. I read the third this year and I can assure you it will not be appearing on my best-of list for the year. Just goes to show there are all kinds of opinions.

*Oprah magazine's 15 Best Books of 2018: New Books We Loved This Year.  At lot of the same books here which always makes me want to read those particular books, if I haven't already.

*The New York Time's 10 Best Books of 2018 also has some duplicates but, again, some the other lists didn't include. Asymmetry, by Lisa Halliday, appears on all three of the lists - how is it I never heard of this book until I looked at these lists?!

Finally, for a different kind of best-of list, here are The 2018 National Book Award Longlists. I'm pretty stoked to find An American Marriage on this list, as well as all three of those best-of lists. I read it in February last year and knew as soon as I finished it that it would be one of my faves for the year and that it would probably appear on a lot of other lists as well. Now to get to some of those other categories as well!




Thursday, February 21, 2019

Mama Shepp's Family Recommends - This Blessed Earth: A Year In The Life of An American Family Farm


It's been much too long since I've posted a recommendation from my family. It's certainly not that they don't read; I've got some voracious readers in my family! The other day, my uncle emailed that he'd read the book that is both the All Iowa Reads selection and the One Book One Nebraska selection for 2019, Ted Genoways' This Blessed Earth.

It's that second selection that has also created some controversy. Nebraska's been picking one book for the state to read for 15 years and an endorsement's been given by the sitting governor every time he's been asked - except for this year. So, when my uncle also passed along his review of the book, I asked if he might let me share it with you and he agreed. Here's he's review:


This Blessed Earth ~ A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm
by Ted Genoways

'Great Plains Distinguished Book Award'

Smithsonian Institution's list of 'Best History Books of 2017'
'All Iowa Reads' choice for 2019
a favorable review by the New York Times

This non-fiction book is the story of Rick Hammond, his daughter Megan and her fiance Kyle Galloway of York County, Nebraska, and their lives raising crops and cattle on their relatively small family farm.

From one harvest to the next the reader learns how farming has changed since passage of the Homestead Act, which gave American farmers 160 acres of land at no cost, requiring only that the farmer lived on the land and developed it. Since then, the gradual development of labor-saving machinery, hybridization of plants, chemicals to fertilize or to kill insects or undesirable plants, consolidation of land under fewer and fewer owners, and increasing competition from food producers elsewhere in the world the world of the family farmer has changed remarkably since this reader was growing up in a small farm town during the 1950s and 1960s.

Since the creation of the 'Great Plains Distinguished Book Award' Nebraska's Governors have routinely recognized the award winning book by issuing a proclamation. That state's current governor declined to recognize this book, telling a Lincoln Journal Star newspaper reporter that this book “..was written by a political activist. He's somebody who is out-of-touch and it was not going to be something that united Nebraska”.

From the prospective of this reader (who grew up in a farm town, attended school with farm kids but has lived his adult life in cities of 150,000 to 300,000 people) this book gave an informative, sympathetic, and true picture of the lives of folks who do their best to make a living on the land, dealing with the uncertainty of weather and commodity markets.

- Thanks, U.S.! -

Monday, February 18, 2019

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Place by Gillian Flynn
Read by Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, Robertson Dean
Published May 2010 by Turtleback Books
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.


My Thoughts:
I've had this book in print for several years; I bought it and Sharp Objects after being impressed with Flynn's Gone Girl. I read Sharp Objects but it wasn't until after I watched the HBO mini-series of that book that made me decide it was time to read this book. Fortunately, my library had it on audio which always makes it easier for me to find the time for a book.

Let's be honest, Dark Places could be the title of any of Gillian Flynn's books. Like her others, Dark Places is a deeply twisted story and, yes, dark, novel, filled with complex characters and no easy answers. Libby is not a likable character - truth be told, none of the characters is likable. And yet, you can't help hope that she will find what she is looking for, be able to find some healing.

The book alternates between present day, as Libby begins working with the Kill Club to try to find out what really happened twenty-five years ago, and 1985, where Flynn alternates again between Ben's and mother, Patty's, points of view leading up to the night of the murders. It's a slow build, as we meet all of the characters and move back and forth in time, but all of the build is essential to keep readers guessing. You all know by know that my track record of solving the mystery is not great and this one lands on the side of "I did not see that coming." I'm still a little unresolved about how I feel about the ending; but I was satisfied. If you read this one, I'd love to hear what you thought of it.

Because of the way Dark Places is formatted, it really calls for multiple narrators and this cast of readers did not disappoint. I definitely can recommend the audiobook version of this novel.

A warning - there is quite a lot of foul language and some very gruesome scenes. This one is not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Life: It Goes On - February 16

I'm starting to feel like a broken record, a whiny girl who's just realizing that she lives someplace where it snows and gets cold. We haven't even had a blizzard this year, or even a major snowfall. But, seriously, I can't tell you how much I hope that ground hog was right and we'll magically wake up, one day soon, and find that winter is over early. We don't. Winter, of course, will always last at least six more weeks after Ground Hog's Day. Which means another month or so of dangerous commutes, worrying about family on the road (because worrying is one of my strengths), and scooping in the bitter cold. I'd plan a trip somewhere warm, but then I'd have to worry about sitting in a plane while it's being de-iced and knowing for sure that we'll likely skid off the end of the icy runway. Do you see where my brain is going, people - I NEED spring!

Last Week I:

Listened To: I finished David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames (in my review, I'll tell you why I should listen to Sedaris whenever I'm driving in the winter) and I restarted Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone (her descriptions of winter in Alaska are making me realize, even more, how whiny I'm being), which my book club will be reading later this spring.

Watched: Agatha and The Truth of Murder on Netflix in which the filmmakers imagine that Ms. Christie's 1926 disappearance was the result of her attempting to solve a real murder mystery from six years earlier. It's not high art, but I did enjoy it.

Read: I finished Golden Child and started Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country, which is my book club's classic selection for this year. I always enjoy reading Wharton but you can certainly not count on a happily-ever-after ending.

Made: Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with cherry preserves and mashed potatoes for Valentine's Day dinner at home. We far prefer to eat a really nice dinner at home that day to going out.

Enjoyed: Valentine's dinner with my sweetie, watching BG teach the cat how to play poker (she was oddly fascinated when he brought a deck of cards which somehow lead to them playing poker!),  happy hour(s?) with my friend, and cocktails with book club friends on Friday evening. We got together because one of our friends who has moved to St. Louis was in town.

This Week I’m: 

Planning: Finally finishing Miss H's room! Her "new" desk is painted and in her room and her new shelves are finally hung. We've got to paint the mirror above her desk (the desk really being a vanity), rehang artwork, and finish cleaning and organizing her closet. Then it's on to my office, which has, once again, become a dumping ground. Also, I have that empty shelf I freed up a couple of weeks ago which is just begging to be filled.

Thinking About: Happily-ever-after endings. We talked about this Friday night when one of my friends mentioned that she read that people were really wanting books with happy endings during this time of political turmoil.

Feeling: Productive.

Looking forward to: Book club this week and a little thrift store shopping.

Question of the week: How about you - are you finding yourself reaching for books with happy endings more and more?

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Golden Child by Claire Adam

Golden Child by Claire Adam
Published January 2019 by SPJ* for Hogarth
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.

When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters—leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.

My Thoughts:
"Hey, would you like to read this book set in a place you have an interest in and on Sarah Jessica Parker's imprint?" Why, yes, yes I would, thanks. Sometimes it doesn't take much to talk me into taking a chance on a book. This was a chance well worth taking.

If you have children, one of them has probably asked at one time or another "who's your favorite?" Of course, your answer is "I love you all the same," or something to that effect. The truth might not be so simple. There are bound to be days when you do favor one child over another. But what if you always felt that way? What if you really couldn't understand one of your children and one of them truly was the golden child? But you love them both, right?

Joy is willing to hold Peter back so that Paul will not be left alone. Clyde can see what Peter could be if he were allowed to learn at his own pace and how Peter might be able to pull himself up out of the poverty in which generations of his family have lived. They both mean well. But sometimes that's just not enough. And, sometimes, difficult choices have to be made.

There are a lot of characters in this book and not nearly enough time to delve deeply into each of them and yet I never felt like I was missing anything. Adam makes sure readers know everything they need to know about each character to understand the dynamics between them, to understand why they do what they will do. Much of that is due to the fact that she paints such a vivid picture of Trinidad, the landscape, the politics, the culture, the gap between the haves and the have-nots, the people. The island feels at once beautiful and dangerous.

Claire Adam's debut is one of those books that's going to make it difficult to pick up another book for a bit. It simply requires time to think about it, to feel it more deeply.

Thanks so much to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. As always, for other opinions, check out the full tour.
Purchase Links


Claire Adam was born and raised in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. She lives with her husband and two children in London, England. GOLDEN CHILD is her first novel.

Connect with Claire on Twitter.

*Yes, that SJP - Sarah Jessica Parker!