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I’ve Been Reading

Let’s do a book update, shall we? Because I have been reading. And also because I’ve been at a library conference for the past three days talking about books and reading. A lot. Finally, after 3 days of conference programs and gala dinners and exhibitor halls, my brain? Mush. About all I can muster right now is a list – and a list of books I’ve read lately is just somehow really appropriate right now.

reading at the MLA conference for Carole Knits

The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard, 4 stars
I enjoyed this book for several reasons, including the setting which is local to me, the historical context of the Rev War, and the story itself. It started off quite well, dragged a bit in the middle, but then redeemed itself for the final third. Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, 3 stars
Amusing and clever, often ironic, but not uproariously funny, this is my first book by Sedaris. I’m not sure if I will read more but reading this was still a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, 5 stars
A collection of short stories yet it reads like a novel because of the brilliant way Mara connects them. Truly, I’m overwhelmed at how beautiful it all is. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Wedding Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke, 2 stars
I used to really enjoy these cozy mysteries but I don’t so much anymore. I don’t know if it’s because my standards are higher or the writing has slipped but the stories are now trite and predictable, the dialogue is simple and full of cliches and the recipes are way too folksy. Still mildly entertaining but I may be done with this series.

10% Happier by Dan Harris, 4 stars
A terrific memoir on Dan Harris’ meditation practice and how it changed his life. There is good, practical advice on how to start meditating and the benefits it can bring into your life.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, 4 stars
I read this almost in one sitting as I couldn’t put it down. Yes, it’s another YA novel about a sick teen and a healthy teen falling in love. It’s also so much more and serves as a wonderful reminder to enjoy every single moment.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, 5 stars
I loved this book. It claims to be about marriage – and it is. But it’s also about childhood and how our childhoods make us the adults we come. It’s about love and hate, about not giving up and the reality of being with someone day in and day out. It’s not romanticized or brutalized, it’s just an incredible portrayal of life. At the halfway point I was a little ambivalent but then it all comes together in such a clever way that I zoomed through the second half. Highly recommended for those who enjoy literary fiction.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, 4 stars
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir in which Helen Macdonald shares her experiences training a goshawk after the unexpected death of her father. While I found some of the parts about T.H. White tedious, I was inspired and moved by the raw grief Macdonald expressed and the way she connected with her hawk Mabel as a way of coming to terms with life, death, and the beauty of the world.

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon, 2 stars
I thought this book had great potential – who isn’t curious about the Hindenburg disaster? But it fell flat for me. Characters I couldn’t keep track of, plots I didn’t really care about, and conspiracies I couldn’t make sense of. Your mileage may vary but for me this was a non starter.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, 5 stars
This is the best book I’ve read in ages and I want to hand it to everyone I know and say, here! read this! right now! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and you will fall in love with Ove and all of his people. And his cat.

Splinters of Light by Rachael Herron, 5 stars
A sad book about a heartbreaking disease – and yet – it’s a hopeful book, too. Rachael Herron has this way of showing us that life is full of all kinds of things, some good and some terrible, but that ultimately hope is what comes through. I loved this book and recommend it without reservation.

Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen, 4 stars
Another winner by Anna Quindlen, especially appealing to me since the main character is a photographer. The story of how she changes and becomes someone very different yet more authentic than ever is something I could truly relate to. The various characters feel like real friends and the overriding feeling of hope in spite of life’s tragedies is lovely.

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent, 2 stars
This historical novel set in and around Salem in the 1600s gets off to a slow start and, while it gets better, it’s never gripping the way it could be. I found it tiresome albeit historically accurate.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, 2 stars
In a very rare occurrence, I must say that the movie was better than the book. The characters have no depth and the story is told in a very simplistic manner. Watch the movie – which is fantastic – and don’t waste your time with the book.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan, 4 stars
A wonderfully quiet book, simple on the surface but with so much going on underneath that you can’t help but be moved by the story and characters. Highly recommended.

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon, 3 stars
Creepy and suspenseful, this audio-book did not disappoint. While I didn’t love it as much as McMahon’s Winter People, I definitely enjoyed this book, which is sort of a cross between two movies: I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Grudge. Recommended for those who enjoy this genre.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond, 5 stars
A difficult read due to the intense subject matter but so worth it because of the extraordinary writing. The author truly captures the ability human beings have to hurt one another, both physically and emotionally, but at the same time she shows us what can happen when we love one another deeply. While the characters lives are full of pain and darkness the book ultimately shows the triumph of love and goodness over hatred and evil. Reminiscent of The Color Purple and Beloved, this is a must read.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler, 3 stars
A modern day librarian receives a centuries old book and sets about figuring out how it’s connected to his family. Full of curses and magic, tarot cards and carnival acts, mermaids and floods, it’s a terrific and compelling story that I couldn’t put down.

Two if by Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard, 4 stars
I read this book for the Mass Library Association conference and, as part of that, I participated in a book discussion with the author. After reflecting on the story and hearing Mitchard talk about the book and her process of writing it I have to say that I really enjoyed it. The characters are strong and I was unable to predict the ending, something that is unusual for me. The suspenseful parts kept me engaged and I’d recommend this to anyone.

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny, 4 stars
Louise Penny never disappoints, this is another wonderful Armand Gamache mystery.

I hope you find something on that list that you’d like to read.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. I’m with you on all your 5-star reads! Fabulous books. 🙂 (So glad you loved the Tsar of Love and Techno!) I had a really tough time with H is for Hawk. I wanted to like it, but just couldn’t. (Although I did enjoy learning more about hawks.)

  2. I have several of these on hold at the library, and this makes me wish that those before me would please read faster! And, I found that all David Sedaris books were MUCH better audio books with him reading to me.

  3. I always love a peek in your book bag. Have you explained how you rate books, or is it more of an overall assessment?

    I read that last Joanne Fluke book, decided it was stupid enough I was done with the series and hauled all of her books to the used bookstore. Phoning it in, tired of the characters, out of ideas, I don’t know but it offended a lot of readers if Amazon reviews are any guide.

  4. Your experience with Two if by Sea and Jacquelyn Mitchard is interesting. It’s often true for me that if I hear an author speak or listen to an interview with them, I understand the book much better, along with the author’s motivations and reasons. That was the case for me with Pax, Did You Ever Have a Family, and Our Souls at Night. I may give Two if by Sea a try!

  5. Last year I read H is for Hawk and didn’t like it much and then I had to reread for this months book group. It’s hard to read when you’re in the throes of grief and I have to say I didn’t like it any better. Ruby is on my must read list. I adore Anthony Mara. He is one of the best writers in the US.

  6. Thanks for your reviews. I’ve read some on your list…and now have new ones to check out at my library. Your review of “A Man Called Ove” is exactly how I felt about the book. One of the best I’ve read in a long, long time. And, you are right, Louise Penny never disappoints…I wish there were another in her series.

  7. Thanks for the book list. I have shanghaied my book club into reading “A Man Called Ove” and am really looking forward to reading it myself! You are quite influential!

  8. I love when you do book reviews! Gives me lots of options. The only one I’ve read on your list is Splinters of Light. I loved this book, and also Rachael’s first serious book, Pack Up the Moon. They both were books that I couldn’t put down and affect d me profoundly. Her romance novels are steamy and fun, very good beach reading. She’s a great writer and a very fun and likable person. I have met her several times and gone to a few readings, since she lives in my general area. Her most recent book, The Ones Who Matter Most, didn’t grab me as much as the previous two, but still well written and worth the time. I think my next book will definitely come from your list. Thanks!

  9. I’ve only read one Joanne Fluke book – and it. was. horrible. Needed something to read on the flight home from Texas early this year, so I bought it; should’ve gotten a magazine – ANY magazine – instead. I certainly have no burning desire to read more of her books.

    It’s sitting in the donation box for my next drop-off.

  10. Downloaded A Man Called Ove on my kindle. Just read the first chapter – hilarious! Think I’m going to love this book! Thanks!

  11. thank you for sharing this list. Fates and Furies is on my TBR and I’m hoping to love it as much as you did. there are more two star books than I expected…I tend to stop a book if I don’t think it will at least be three stars (unless it’s for bookclub)… but maybe you don’t?

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