Thursday, February 28, 2019
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!
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!
Monday, February 18, 2019
Read by Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, Robertson Dean
Published May 2010 by Turtleback Books
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Published January 2019 by SPJ* for Hogarth
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review
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.
"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.
check out the full tour.
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!
Monday, February 11, 2019
Read by Ann Marie Lee
Published January 2018 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: my audiobook copy checked out from my local library
It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.
Finn makes it clear early on that The Woman In The Window is an updated take on Alfred Hitchcock's classic, Rear Window: a character stuck in a confined space spies on the neighbors, often using a camera to get even more intimate, witnesses a crime but can't make the police believe it happened. I was so in, right from the start. And then things started to resemble a different work and Finn started to lose me. Like Paula Hawkins' The Girl On The Train, we have an unreliable narrator who drinks too much, has a mystery in her background, sees something no one believes she's seen - and that's not the end of the similarities. I began to wonder what the point of listening on was. And then Finn pulled a Gillian Flynn Gone Girl and dropped a big reveal well before the book was done. One that I had figured out really early on in the book. C'mon Finn, give me something that I can get invested in.
Still, I sorta liked Anna, even while I wanted to slap her upside the head repeatedly (I swear, I'm not really as violent as I would appear to be from the number of times I threaten to slap a book character!). I wanted to find out what was going to happen to her and I almost began to believe the resolution Finn was steering me toward. I mean, if he was channeling Flynn, that resolution might have been the one Flynn went with. But, Finn kept reminding me that this is a book solidly based on Hitchcock movies. And still, I did not figure out where he was taking us (although in retrospect, I should have figured it out much earlier). Kudos to Finn.
And you know what? In the end, I'd have to say, despite all of that, I did enjoy this book. Who'd a thunk it? There were some interesting twists and, by god, I really wanted Anna to be ok so I had to stay to the end to watch over her.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Last Week I:
Listened To: I finished Gillian Flynn's Dark Places and I'll go back to David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames, which we started last weekend on our trip.
|Real versus movie Cheney|
Read: I raced through The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man, partly because I had to get a review written for Friday but also because it was just that much fun. I read enough of it to the hubby to convince him to pick it up next.
Made: Chicken and stuffing casserole, lobster pasta, taco salad, beef/vegetable soup - we were mixing it up this week.
|Sookie likes the recliner, too!|
This Week I’m:
Planning: On finally getting Miss H's room put back together. Although, maybe not entirely. Turns out we don't actually have any of the paint left from the top part of her walls. So all of the spackling I filled holes with will just be white spots on her walls while we figure out if we want to try to color match some more paint of just repaint the top part of her walls a different color.
Thinking About: How much I need to get done around here after spending the better part of last week's evenings doing taxes.
Feeling: Conflicted. On the one hand, I raced through Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and was all geared up to purge things from this place. On the other hand, my Instagram feed is filled with squares from people who create the most amazing places with things they've thrifted and picked. I so want to head to the thrift stores - both to drop off bags of stuff I don't need but also to look for new things I do "need!"
Looking forward to: A more relaxed week.
Question of the week: How are you all surviving winter? It seems like even the places that are normally warm are getting snow or unusually cold temperatures!
Friday, February 8, 2019
Published January 2019 by William Morrow
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review
He’s back. Even older. Even funnier.
It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes!
Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated.
Another hilarious, witty, and entertaining novel from bestselling author Jonas Jonasson that will have readers howling out-loud at the escapades and misfortunes of its beloved hundred-year-old hero Allan Karlsson and his irresistible sidekick Julius.
Ten years ago Jonas Jonasson published The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. It was his first novel and it sold ten million copies. It's one of those books that keeps showing up different places because it keeps finding new fans. And those fans weren't finished with Allan Karlsson.
A couple of years ago, that book was recommended to me and I meant to read it. But you know how that goes. But at least when the sequel was pitched to me by the ladies at TLC Book Tours, I didn't hesitate. Of course, I meant to read the first book first. But I didn't. And while it might have helped some, it absolutely is not necessary to have read the first book before reading this one. But this one will probably convince you to read the first one anyway, so maybe just read them in order.
Despite the humor of the book, Jonasson has a lot to say about politics and the political environment in which we currently find ourselves. Which brings me to a warning: Jonasson takes aim at a lot of political leaders in this book. But mostly as Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. So if you're a fan of either of those men, you might not care much for this book. On the other hand, if you're not, you're going to enjoy this book that much more.
If it were up to me to give you a summary of this book, I'd pretty much leave it off before that second sentence even finished. Because this is a book that keeps surprising you with the absurd situations that Allan and Julius find themselves in and you just need to let it be a surprise. If you read this book and tell me you see things coming before they happen, I will likely call you a liar. Jonasson takes readers to places you can't imagine Allan and Julius will find themselves as the uranium situation develops. My only little quibble with the book is that it landed a bit too softly for my tastes, although I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that you know all along that things will end well for these two old men.
I wonder how much longer Allan Karlsson can live. I feel like he just might have another book in him.
Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions of the book, check out the full tour.
Jonas Jonasson is the author of the international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, now a major motion picture. Prior to his success as a novelist, Jonas was a journalist for the Swedish newspaper Expressen for many years, and later became a media consultant and founded a production company specializing in sporting events for Swedish television, which he sold before moving abroad to work on his first novel. He is the author of the internationally successful novels The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All. He lives on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.
Find out more about Jonas at his website, and connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Thursday, February 7, 2019
I started thinking about what my One Word for 2019 would be back in December. I wondered if it was even worth bothering with – my track record on following up with my One Word is not good. But hope springs eternal, as they say, and I wanted to try again. For a long while, I considered the word “no” as my word for 2019. “No, you may not have a second donut,” “No excuses, get to the gym,” “No, I’m sorry but I don’t have time to do that thing you are asking me to do.” But no matter how hard I tried to think of it as a positive thing, “no” still felt negative. So I took to the internet. What were other people choosing? And then, without even looking at the person’s reason for choosing the word, I found someone who had chosen the word “enough” and I knew that was my word, too.
Merriam Webster has these definitions for “enough:”
- occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.
- in or to a degree or quantity that satisfies or that is sufficient or necessary for satisfaction; fully, quite; in a tolerable degree.
- a sufficient number, quantity, or amount.
Oxford Dictionary also includes:
Used to indicate that one is unwilling to tolerate any more of something undesirable.
I chose the word “enough” to:
- Remind myself at meals to stop eating when I’ve had enough, to drink enough water, to get enough sleep, to work out enough,
- Say “no” when I’ve done enough already or have enough to do already,
- Remind myself to make enough time for the things that are important and the people I care about,
- Be happy with what I have
- Remind myself that I am enough. As Stuart Smalley used to say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” I was a joke when they did the skit on SNL all of those years ago but it really is something we all need to remember. I really am smart enough, skilled enough, talented enough, creative enough to take on anything I choose and strong enough to bear anything that life throws at me.
Going forward, the goal is to really work, each month, on new ways to implement this word into my life and to be mindful of it every day.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Read by Tavia Gilbert
Published March 2018 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: audiobook checked out from my library
Nashville, August 1920. Thirty-five states have ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, twelve have rejected or refused to vote, and one last state is needed. It all comes down to Tennessee, the moment of truth for the suffragists, after a seven-decade crusade. The opposing forces include politicians with careers at stake, liquor companies, railroad magnates, and a lot of racists who don't want black women voting. And then there are the ‟Antisˮ—women who oppose their own enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the moral collapse of the nation. They all converge in a boiling hot summer for a vicious face-off replete with dirty tricks, betrayals and bribes, bigotry, Jack Daniel's, and the Bible.
Following a handful of remarkable women who led their respective forces into battle, along with appearances by Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Frederick Douglass, and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Woman's Hour is an inspiring story of activists winning their own freedom in one of the last campaigns forged in the shadow of the Civil War, and the beginning of the great twentieth-century battles for civil rights.
First up, let me just say that while Gilbert does a very fine job of reading this book, I feel like I would have gotten much more out of it had I read it in print, maybe been able to take a few notes and kept a running track of who was who. There are a tremendous number of "characters" at play in this book, many of them well known to me but even more with whom I was, until now, unfamiliar.
In light of our current political climate and emerging feminism, this book is quite timely. I couldn't understand, for example, how women I know couldn't understand why I walked at the first Women's March. They felt that women were perfectly fine as is and I was told by both women I don't know and women I do that I had not walked for them. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Carrie Catt, Lucy Stone and Victoria Woodhull must have felt very much the same way. They couldn't have possibly been able to imagine why women would not believe they had the right to vote. Yet, there was a very vocal contingent of anti-suffragettes (Antis) who fought every bit as hard as their male counterparts to prevent the Nineteenth Amendment from being ratified.
The two sides became, by the time the vote came to Tennessee, so vocal and persistent that I almost began to feel sorry for the politicians stuck in the middle. They were threatened with the loss of their office if they voted for ratification and threatened with the loss of their office if they didn't. They were bribed, by both sides, flirted with, kept plied with liquor, and besieged day and night. Many of the men were afraid to commit one way or the other, many changed their decision more than once, some even changed their vote in order to take advantage of legislative rules that actually allowed them to advance their original position.
Weiss has clearly done her research, from the beginning of the fight to win the vote to the ways that battle continues to impact women in politics, from the ways those fighting for abolition moved to pursue women's rights to the ways those same people betrayed African Americans in order to achieve the right to vote for white women, and the ways those suffragettes splintered, making their mutual cause that much more difficult to achieve. Those final days in Tennessee are recounted in detail; listening to those pieces made me imagine something akin to a slapstick comedy routine.
Suffrage is a complicated issue, not as simple as just a woman's right to vote. This is a good resource to understand those complexities and the way those issues have echoed through until today. Still, even as I had issues with the methods some men and women used to reach ratification and the costs involved, I couldn't help but cheer in my car when the Amendment was passed.
Monday, February 4, 2019
Published January 2019 by Doubleday Books
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has lain the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.
But when their father, the only man they've ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day two men and a boy wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men?
I was sucked into this book almost as soon as I read the first words:
"Once we have a father, but our father dies without us noticing. It's wrong to say that we don't notice. We are just absorbed in ourselves, that afternoon when he dies. Unseasonable heat. We squabble, as usual. Mother comes out on terrace and puts a stop to it by raising her hand, a swift motion against the sky. Then we spend some time lying down with lengths of muslin over our faces, trying not to scream, and so he dies with none of us women bearing witness, none of us accompanying him."I had the feeling I was about to read a dystopian novel rooted in feminism. The world of these women is filled with toxic men, both literally and figuratively.
"There is a fluidity to this movements, despite his size, that tells me he has never had to justify his existence, has never had to fold himself into a hidden thing, and I wonder what that must be like, to know that your body is irreproachable."I was loving the writing and MacIntosh's constantly changed point of view. The island the women lived on became vivid, the relationships between them fascinating. There's a sense of mystery and tension to The Water Cure that pulls readers through it. I wanted to find out why these people had isolated themselves, why King had developed the tests and cures he and Mother used to prepare the girls in case they are ever faced with the real world again, and how that would all play out when it happened. I was feeling a The Handmaid's Tale vibe and I was excited to see how MacInstosh would play it out.
As I read on, it began to appear that things might not be exactly as they first appeared. Has thereto world actually become too toxic for women or have King and Mother founded a cult? Why do these men wash up on shore, insisting that help is coming, never get saved? Despite all of their training, is it impossible for women to resist the lure of men? I had so many questions.
What I felt like I got in the end was the story of a family, the bond of sisters, who just happen to be leading a life equal parts impending peril and complete boredom. Things go in a direction I was not expecting and I never got answers to many of my questions. Men, as it turns out though, are every bit as terrible as the girls have been led to believe.
I didn't get exactly what I was expecting, or what I wanted, out of The Water Cure but it is an impressive debut with a lot to consider and is a book that I imagine I'll be thinking about for a while.