Recent fiction…

Here are some of the books I’ve read recently:bittersweet mcculloughBittersweet by Colleen McCollough is about the four Latimer sisters–two sets of twins who shared the same Rector father, but two different mothers, as the first twins’ mother died shortly after giving birth.   The rector quickly marries his former housekeeper, who gives birth to another set of twins.  The result is 4 sisters, albeit with varying physical characteristics and natures, less than 2 years apart in age.  Their story is captivating, especially as they mature, and at the beginning of the twentieth century, all four decide to enter a training program for nurses in New South Wales.  Their adventures, and challenges are described by a master storyteller, Colleen McCullough.

 

A publisher person who is in library marketing for Macmillan publishing recommended Sharon Bolton when

she spoke in a recent webinar.  Talia Sherer, of Macmillan,  was nice enough to send me several of Bolton’s books.

So far, I have read Awakening and Sacrifice–both modern gothic thrillers.   I enjoyed both of these, but beware if you don’t like snakes because there are lots in Awakening!    Some might think that Sacrifice too gory, but I found it pretty intriguing.

sacrificeThe Awakening

 

 

 

Alaskan LaundryJust yesterday, I finished The Alaskan Laundry, by Brendan Jones.  It’s a debut novel, and I very much enjoyed it!  Ever since the Northern Exposure tv series, I’m attracted to stories set in Alaska.  This one did not disappoint.  Tara Marconi  is  an 18 year old who has trained as a boxer. She has just left Philly to escape a domineering father, a lover she’s not sure about, and memories of her mother’s recent death.  Tara goes to a small island off the coast of Alaska to work in a fish processing plant and then to try her hand at crewing on a fishing boat and to seek her fortune.  Along the way, she acquires a dog and an aging tugboat. This is a coming of age novel with a rich cast of characters set in lush surroundings!  I highly recommend it.

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Coloring parties?? Spring nonfiction!

Coloring books for grownups?

In the vein of “never say never”…did I ever think I’d be featuring a coloring book on this blog?  WonderlandTo my surprise, I found myself requesting this one from Blogging for Books in exchange for a free and honest review.  Several of the patrons at my library have been requesting coloring sessions (they’re wildly popular in libraries and other venues), so I’m hosting two “Adults Only” coloring parties in the coming months.  I have to say that Wonderland by Amily Shen, a renowned Taiwanese artist, is one of the loveliest adult coloring books I’ve seen.  It is inspired by Alice’s Adventures, and even has picture puzzles to search out.  It would make a lovely gift!  At the end of the summer, I’ll let you know how the coloring parties went.

 

Some nonfiction books I like:

All Presidents' Gardens

In this season of gardening fever,  All The Presidents’ Gardens,  by Marta McDowell is a beautiful history of Presidential gardens from Washington to Obama.  There are some beautiful photos and lush descriptions of how the White House grounds have grown and changed with each inhabitant of the White House.   Anyone who plans on visiting the White House should take a look at this lovely book.  There are descriptions of the gardens which can be toured.  The book also includes a plant list of plants, shrubs, and trees planted on the White House grounds.

 

Elements of Pizza

Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish could be subtitled:  Everything you ever need to know about the art of creating your own pizza!  Forkish thoroughly covers all the elements of dough chemistry and all the different kinds of pizza crusts.  There is an entire chapter on equipment and ingredients–also wonderful sauce recipes and ideas for toppings.  There are recipes for flatbreads and other artisanal pizzas, as well–makes my mouth water just looking through the beautiful photos.

 

game of crownsGame of Crowns by Christopher Andersen is the answer to every “royal junkie’s” craving!  In my opinion, it’s one of the best royal biographies in recent years.   It is a pretty complete summary of all the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ and happenings over the past years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.  Andersen gives a pretty complete summary of the women on the throne including the Queen Mother, Elizabeth, and those at one time or another, as heirs to the throne:  Diana, Camilla, and Kate.  It’s full of interesting tidbits for any royal watcher.

 

 

 

Rosemary                                                      Missing kennedy

 

 

 

Within the space of a few weeks, I read two books about Rosemary Kennedy.  Her story had long been of interest to me as part of a general fascination with the famous Kennedy family, and also because Rosemary spent the majority of her life at  the St. Coletta home and school which is only a few miles from where I’ve lived in Wisconsin for most of my adult life.  While she was still alive, I knew that Rosemary was  residing there but not that she was able to be ‘out and about’ in the nearby communities.

Of the two books, Rosemary, the Hidden Kennedy Daughter, by Kate Clifford Larson, was the one I most preferred.  It was well researched and was the most far reaching in covering the history and scope of the Rosemary’s place in the Kennedy family.   Rose Kennedy, the matriarch of the family is portrayed in a very unfavorable light.  She seemed heartless, and along with Joseph Kennedy, ruthless in their treatment of a daughter who was ‘different’.  The Missing Kennedy by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff, the niece of the nun who cared for Rosemary for most of her life included lots of intimate details about Rosemary’s habits, likes and dislikes, and many personal photos.  It also explores the connection of Rosemary’s disability with the founding of the Special Olympics.

Next blog, I’ll tell you about some of the fiction books I’ve been reading.

 

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January 2016

We’re well into winter and the beginning of a new year and more  good reading ahead.  Many of the reviews and literary comments which have been coming in to my mailbox have to do with ‘best books of 2015’ …In looking over my log of what I read last year–a total of 94 books, I find that I had 2 or 3 favorites.  They were not necessarily those of the well known literary critics.  At the top of my list is Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman.  It is the richly imagined story of the life of Pizarro, the father of impressionism.

marriage of oppositesTwo others that I liked a lot were Goodnight Mr. Wodehouse, which I wrote about in another post, and The Lake House, which I also wrote about earlier.

goonight mr wodehouse

lake house

I recently read. for library book group, Dreaming Spies. by Laurie King.  This is the thirteenth in the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series which was created by King.  Some diehard Sir Conan Doyle fans may not ‘buy into them’, but I find them delightful.  This one, set in Japan and England exposes one to quite a bit of history, so you can learn while being entertained.  An added plus, if you’re a Downton Abbey fan, is that it is set in the same time period.

dreaming spies

Currently, I am reading Spark Joy by Marie Kondo.  This book is the companion to Kondo’s earlier, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I liked very much.  I like this one even better than the first, because this gives specific ideas and plans for organization.  Kondo includes diagrams of how to fold garments, arrange cabinets and cupboards, and tips for keeping the items in one’s life ‘tidy’.  She even has a section on organizing one’s workspace or office where a lot of time can be wasted looking for misplaced items.  Kondo’s message is that “the purpose of tidying is to impart joy into every day of your life.”

spark joy

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Back to you, dear readers! November 2015

Hi all! I’ve been SO busy with my library tasks and enjoying summer  and a beautiful autumn that I got way behind in reading recommendations.  My reading so far this year totals 73 books.  Here I’ll mention some highlights of what I liked:

Two “re-reads” based on movies–

Here are two books which I recently read for the second time because  movie or video releases rekindled interest.  The first is Olive Kitteridge which I read again after watching the HBO miniseries–Olive Kitteridge.  It’s now available on DVD, and I intend to watch it again!

olive kittridgeI loved the book  “again”, and the four hour miniseries starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, and Bill Murray, follows and exemplifies the interconnected stories of the book quite well.  I highly recommend it!

The second book I read again because of a movie is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I have not yet seen the recently released movie, but am looking forward to it.  The book was as good the second time. It  is interesting to compare current environmental changes  with those  observed in 1998.A Walk in the Woods

I’m adding these books along with anything by Jon Hassler to my list of  books that I could happily read again and again.

Others read in the past few months:  I will give each a ‘star’ rating from 1-5!

The Cove by Ron Rash          Excellent!                                                          *****

Goldeneye Where Bond Was Born:  Ian Fleming’s Jamaica by Matthew Parker

                                                                                                                                         ****

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson                                                                          ****

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce (this is a parallel story to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry)                                                                               

                                                                                                                                            **

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson (A delightful story set in Barbados, but the book had what I thought was an unappealing cover, so it was not picked up by browsers).

                                                                                                                                             ****

Early Warning by Jane Smiley    (2nd in trilogy)                                          ****

The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg (intense psycho thriller)              ****

The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (for library book group) a delightful mystery which the group enjoyed!

                                                                                                                                              ****

For  our Native American month the library book group chose either Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie or The Round House by Louise Erdrich–both were equally powerful and gave interesting perspectives and insight into Native American culture and their economic and social situations in our country.                           *****

 

 

 

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Good Night Mr. Wodehouse and the Lake House

Just wanted to tell you about and recommend two new books that I really loved–worthy of being read again:

goonight mr wodehouseGoodnight Mr. Wodehouse is by Faith Sullivan, a Minnesota author, whose novels I have enjoyed reading in the past (The Cape Ann) and (Gardenias).  The last was ten years ago, so I was surprised to hear that she has a new book.  A finished copy was graciously sent to me by the publisher, Milkweed Editions.  It is a wonderful story about Nell, a small town widow, living in Harvester, MN at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Nell faces trials and tribulations, but through it all, is sustained by her love of books and reading–especially the novels of P.J. Wodehouse.  I was mesmerized and couldn’t put it down.  In addition to the entrancing story, this publication bears homage to the concept of a beautifully presented physical book.  It has a lovely book jacket, quality paper, and a little leaf print on every page.  I loved this book and hope you have the pleasure of reading it, too!  It is a book I will treasure and read again soon.

lake houseThe Lake House is the fifth novel by Australian author, Kate Morton.  I’ve read some of her previous works and liked them, too.   I couldn’t put this one down.  Sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, it is set between 1933 and present day Cornwall and London.  It is a many layered novel about a crime writer who has  been haunted for decades about the disappearance of her eleven month old brother.  There is a mystery and family intrigue.  Now I want to re-read Morton’s earlier works.

Do any of you have favorite books that you re-read again and again?

 

 

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March 2015

dead wakeThis book, Dead Wake, by Erik Larson was the best I’ve read in awhile!  Larson keeps the reader on the edge of one’s seat, as he recounts the thrilling tale of the fate of the Lusitania.  Although this book is nonfiction, Larson manages to make it read like fiction as he did in Devil in the White City and In The Garden of Beasts. In May 1915, as a historic luxury liner heads from N.Y. to Liverpool, the officials of the Cunard line manage to ignore warnings about German subterfuge, and depart from N.Y. Harbor with a record number of children aboard.  We know the outcome of the voyage of the Lusitania, but there are many thrilling facts and near misses which are imparted in this fascinating account of the event which was a catalyst for U.S. involvement in WWI.

all old knivesAll the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer is a thriller that takes place all in one evening over dinner at a CA restaurant–kind of suspenseful with a ‘twist’.  It’s a quick read–not bad.

 

 

faithful placeFaithful Place by Tana French is part of the Dublin Murder Squad series–set in Ireland.  It has excellent character development and was the library March title for discussion.  Most who attended liked it and several had read others by French.

 

Eagle PondOn Eagle Pond by Donald Hall, who was the fourteenth Poet Laureate, is a collection of essays which was published in 2007.  This is one of many books I have sitting around the house.  It suddenly called out to me, and I’m so glad I read it–a wonderful collection about Hall’s return to his family homestead in N.H.  It’s about nature, the seasons, and living the rural life.  Also, I realized as I read On Eagle Pond, that I was familiar with Hall’s work.  In the late 70’s his poem, Ox-Cart Man, was made into an award winning book for children.  Recently, Hall had published, Essays After Eighty, which I’ve not read.  He is 86 now and no longer writes poetry.  I found his work  very entertaining.

courtesy Loose Gravel PressWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart is classified as a young adult novel.  It is set on a small private island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard where there is a family ‘village’.  The extended family gets together every summer–including the ‘liar’ cousins.  One summer there is a mysterious accident, and then two years later,young Cadence returns  to the island with debilitating headaches and wonders why family relationships are strained.   The reader is gradually exposed to the family dysfunction and how the cousins responded.  It will leave you shocked!  I would not suggest it for young teens.  There are some ‘adult’ topics, and overall, it is a disturbing story.

effortlessEffortless Healing by David Perlmutter is a book which I requested for review.  It sounds like an intriguing concept, but  any program which requires one to give up eating breakfast, avoid whole grains, most types of fish, and conventional yogurt doesn’t seem like a practical plan for me.  I know that many people are gluten sensitive, so this program may appeal to many, just not me.  I did like the fact that the author says that eating butter and fats like olive oil , eggs, coconut oil is OK.

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Winter reading…February 2015

As usual I am fortunate to have more than I can read, but it has been a wonderful diversion during the cold weather.  How wonderful it is to read good books and have the pleasure of talking about them with family, friends, and coworkers!

spool of blueMy recent most favorite!!–Anne Tyler is the author of about twenty novels, many of which I’ve enjoyed.  Her most recent, A Spool of Blue Thread, is wonderful.  With  humor and poignancy, the story of the  Whitshank family is recounted.  Family sagas usually grab me, and this one finds Abby and Red in their later years, living in the house which has been in the family for years.  There is a wayward son who pops in and out of their lives, an adopted son, two daughters, several grandchildren and the accompanying “in” and “outlaws”.  Red owns a construction company, and Abby has recently retired as a social worker.  She still brings ‘strays’ in for family gatherings.  If you read this book, you will laugh and perhaps, cry, but I think you will enjoy it!

 

paying guests

 The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is a kind of Gothic page turner set in 1922.  Widowed Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, who has a secret past,  are forced to take in lodgers in order to keep their ‘upper crust’ home on Champion Hill.  The arrival of a lively young middle class couple  as tenants brings a big change of circumstance into the house.  Living in close quarters involves the characters in relationships  which ultimately result in  a love triangle.  Waters infuses the mystery with sensuality, drama, and intrigue, all of which lead  to a thrilling conclusion…I couldn’t put it down!

sweetlandSweetland by Michael Crummy kept me mesmerized for most of a weekend!  It is set in Newfoundland on an island with an economy based upon fishing.  The island  is about to be resettled, and a monetary payment made to all the inhabitants only when  all agree to move to the mainland.   Moses Sweetland whose ancestors originally settled the island is the last holdout.  Sweetland wants to stay, and he must withstand  increasing efforts to move off the island.  When tragedy strikes, the quirky characters are spurred to action, and Moses has to make a fateful decision.  The rugged landscape and the bleak setting may not appeal to everyone, but I couldn’t put it down.

my sunshine

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh is a debut novel which has been receiving lots of acclaim.  It is set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1989  where a young girl is the victim of a crime.    The narrator is a fourteen year old boy who is ‘in love’ with the victimized girl who lives across the street.     The narrator, along with several boys and men are suspected of the crime.  The novel evokes the damp heat of a southern summer and  and elements of ‘coming of age’ along with themes of family, memory and forgiveness.  It is an engrossing story.

 

big sevenThe Big Seven by Jim Harrison is classic ‘Harrison”.  In this follow up to The Great Leader, retired Detective Jim Sunderson has bought himself a small  cabin in a remote area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The new neighbors are a family of outlaws which Sunderson must confront, while trying to relate to the ‘seven deadly sins’.  He remains the crusty character we saw in his previous Sunderson novel.  The ending seemed a little weak, but if you like Harrison’s writing, this one will not disappoint.

 

womenThe Women by T.C. Boyle was the February library book group selection.  It is a fictional work which reads like a biography of the four women which Frank Lloyd Wright married, and or, lived with during his life.  The narrator is a  fictional Japanese student who has become one of Wright’s apprentices.  It is an interesting depiction of what happened as Wright moves through his ‘adventures’.  Boyle arranges the narration so that it culminates with the most dramatic episode at Taliesin.  As usual, the discussions were lively with varying reactions to the novel.  Most agreed that although Wright was a charismatic architectural genius, he was a dastardly character in his personal life!

mrs tom thumbThe Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin was a topic for discussion with my personal book group–my selection, chosen because it’s one I always wanted to read!  It’s a novel based upon the real story of  thirty two inch tall Lavinia Warren  Stratton who married Tom Thumb in a highly publicized wedding which rivaled that of Charles and  Diana.  The book depicts P.T. Barnum in an interesting light–historical fiction which seemed to have a strong aura of truth.  The book group gave it mixed reviews.  I like learning a bit about history when reading for pleasure.

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