My Own Little Book Corner

Thursday, September 7, 2017

2017 - Books Read - August

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

A well written interesting story of love between a father and a daughter.  Samuel Hawley is a widower and is raising his daughter.  They have constantly moved because of Samuel's lifestyle which has resulted in him being shot many times - thus the title of the book.   I really liked this  book.   It is a touching story of the relationship Samuel has with his daughter, Loo.  It is also a coming of age story for Loo interspersed with the back story of how they have gotten to where they are.   I  liked all of the characters - even though they are not always the people I would want as next door neighbors.   Well written with an ending that helps make the story stay with you.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I finally read this book after picking it up several times to buy and then putting it back down.   I'm glad I finally read it.   Ove immediately drew me in - I wanted to know how he got to be the person he was.   The interactions with different people, his love for his wife and even his grouchiness touched me.  Another well written story that tugged at my heart at times.

Hillbilly Elegy; A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J D Vance

Before I read this book I had seen several people at different times with it.   Mainly fellow travelers at the airport.   I asked a few of them about the book and the response was always - it's a quick read and an ok story.   I think that is mainly true, but when you think about what the story is, it should be more than ok.   This is a memoir of growing up poor with a drug abusive mom and several father figures in and out of life.   It is not an "ok" picture, but the way it is written did not draw me in emotionally.  It is impressive that Mr. Vance has had the success he has and it was touching reading about his relationship with his grandmother and sister.  A book that should make one think about a segment of our population and what they face.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

This book sounded like such a good story was going to be told but from the start I was not impressed.   It almost read as a young adult book at times and was predictable to some extent but also very unbelievable in others.   I did not like any of the characters in this book even though I tried.   My least favorite book of the month.

No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

This is a retelling of the Great Gatsby according to the blurbs about it.  I guess I see a loose connection between the stories, but I wouldn't have thought about Gatsby just "cold reading" the book.  I did enjoy the story though and unlike The Roanoke Girls, I liked these characters.   They are flawed in all sorts of ways, but I still liked them.   An enjoyable read if you are just looking for a good story to read.

Love First:  Ending Hate Before It's Too Late by Don McLaughlin

A must read.   Don McLauglin has written a book that calls us not to just think about what he says, but to act on it.   He presents the conditioned love of God and the way that we can - really must - reflect it as Christians.  I've read it through once and plan on going back through it again.  A convicting read.  

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

This is my 4th Liane Moriarty book and my least favorite.   I binge watched "Big Little Lies" based on one of her books that I haven't yet read.   I  think that affected how I felt about this book as there was a big reveal in "Big Little Lies" that made more sense than the big reveal in "Truly Madly Guilty."  I just felt as if there wasn't that much suspense or surprise to this story, but as I've often said, I know that timing of reading a book can make a huge difference as far as how I view it.  

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

This was an ok book.  As you can tell by the title, it involves several instances of "almosts."  A chance encounter between 2 people - another chance encounter between the man and another woman - and then a chance between the first 2 again, with a kidnapping included.  It is an interesting book, but at times not as layered as I'd like.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

A series of short stories that are all related to a certain degree.  These go back to the town where Olive Kitteridge grew up.   I really enjoyed this book.   I felt as if I knew the people and the town.  A better book than "Olive Ketteridge."   

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

I like Joshilyn Jackson's writing style.  She is a true southern theme writer.   This story mainly covers the theme of old south and the racism that often lies under the surface with family privilege and the connections that are important thrown in.   Well written and one of those stories that doesn't shout it's message, but get's it across just the same.

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

This was a month of reading books by authors I had read before.   "The Perfect Girl" is an interesting story that unfolded in a fairly predictable way, but yet it was still interesting.   It covers only 24 hours, but it is a full 24 hours that does take a few twists.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
A historical fiction based on real people.  This is set during World War II and covers Poland, America and France.   It can be a gut wrenching read but at the same time some of the chapters are almost beach read like.   It took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I did, I was glad I had stuck with it.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 Books Read - June and July

Stan Musial: An American Story by George Vecsey

Being a St Louis Cardinal fan, I really enjoyed this book.  Years ago we went to his restaurant in St Louis and he was there.   He was walking the floor and giving out photos that he was autographing for anyone who wanted them.  Such a friendly, unassuming man.  The book really shows what a great man he was - coming from nothing, a hard worker, a great man and ballplayer.  It was interesting reading about the connections that he had - not only with other ballplayers (both on and off his team) but also with the community.

A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City" by Drew Philip

Ugh! This book brought many mixed reactions. It is the story told by a man who bought a house and an adjoining lot in a blighted Detroit neighborhood for $500 each and set about restoring the house. The interesting part of the book is stories about the neighborhood. The UGH part is when the author makes comments along the line of his generation is just waiting for the older generation to die so the world will be a better place;that Occupy Wall Street was a great movement even though they really didn't know what they were trying to accomplish and when he reams out his dad who has been nothing but generous with his time and talents. I never caught the connection with how he is contributing that much to bettering society - just a lot of words about how it needs to be done and some examples of other people doing it. Interesting since I travel up that way so much and interesting to read about some of the neighborhood people, but frustrating at times too.

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

It takes 800 grapes to make one bottle of wine.  This is a story of a family who owns a small vineyard/winery in California.   It is very light read that not only deals with the grape harvest, but also the family dynamics.  The parents, the daughter and the two sons are all dealing with hurt and conflict.  Which if you think about it all seems a little far fetched that all of them are having some of the same issues.  If you want a quick, entertaining read then check this one out.

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

A good historical fiction book.   The orphan is actually more than one - a woman, Noa, who's parents have disowned her and a baby she rescues from a train car full of babies - mostly dead - on their way to a camp.   Noa flees with the baby and ends up in a German circus,   The circus travels and has some Jewish performers.  That results in a complicated layer to travel and performing.  A well written story that like so many of them from this time in history is not always an easy one to read.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

A twisted family tale of performers.   The parents are "flash" performers setting up situations in public that people don't know are actually performances.   The kids are the main component of many of these performances.   The story rotates between childhood and adulthood. When the parents disappear, the kids are left to find their parents - if in fact they are still alive.   The book started a little slow for me, but ended up being a good story.  The ending shows how warped of a life the family lived, but because all along, you knew they were crazy, it makes sense.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 - Books Read - March, April and May

The Dinner by Herman Koch
What a waste of time.   This book failed on many levels.   It is a nice premise - the story is mainly told during a dinner.  The participants in the dinner are 2 brothers and their wives.   But the story is as much about their sons as it is them.   There are a lot of sociopaths with anger management issues and you wonder how they were allowed to continue to behave that way without consequences.  There's also a twist of sorts at the end that made me want to throw the book against the wall,   Just a totally unbelievable story full of people I didn't like.

Keeper of The Light (Kiss River #1) by Diane Chamberlain
 I probably liked this book a little more than normal because I read it after The Dinner.  Plus I've read other books by Diane Chamberlain and I like her writing style.  This story is a story of love and obsession.   One of the main characters has passed away - Annie - having been shot while doing volunteer work.   The doctor who was on call and made a tough decision when Annie was brought in, is married to a man that is actually in love with Annie.  It is a little sad and unbelievable how the husband reacts and also the ending.   But if you aren't looking for a deep story, this is a good one.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
While this book was interesting, it didn't quite live up to what I expected.   The book alternates between the story of the planning, building and implementation of the Chicago World's Fair and the young girls who were murdered during that time.   Both stories are interesting in themselves, but the combination of the two was a little distracting at times.   It's always interesting reading about places you've been, but overall this book just didn't draw me in to either story.

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo
This is very much a character driven book and the bottom line is that none of the characters really interested me that much.   It is full of characters - sometimes hard to remember who is who and how they are related.   The story is ok - interesting at times, but at other times a little predictable and sometimes a little "what?!" moments.   I don't feel like it was a waste of time - an average story.

A Separation by Katie Kitamura
The summary of this book sucked me in.   It sounded like an interesting psychological story, but in the long run it was not a thriller at all.   The story is told inside the head of the separated soon to be divorced wife.   It just lacked emotion and basically had no plot.   Not as bad as "The Dinner" but don't waste your time on this one,.

The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens
A story of a woman who was forced to face her fears when she found herself abandoned by her husband.   It is an interesting story that takes us on a journey with Mary Gooch as she growts and  recovers hope.

11/23/63 by Stephen King
My first Stephen King novel that I actually read all the way through.  I rarely read SciFi.  I think I am too literal and just find most of it unbelievable.   However, time travel is something I can read and enjoy.   This story is about trying to change history and save JFK from death.   It is an interesting premise and read until the end.   Since reading this book, I have read comments that Stephen King does not generally end books well.   Based on my experience, I'd agree.   However it was worth the ending to get the rest of the story.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 Books Read - February

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This is a book that has been on my TBR list for a while and I'm glad I finally got it.   The story started out a little slow for me, but picked up as I got to know the characters.   There are 2 parallel stories - one in France and one in Germany - during World War II.   One is the story of a family trying to survive the occupation and the other is a story of an orphan who is part of Hitler's Youth Movement.   Each story in itself is a good read and it's interesting how they intersect.  Marie-Laure is a smart French girl who has lost her sight.   Warner is a blonde headed German boy who is also very smart.   They both do what they can to help their side in the war - but Warner, unlike Marie-Laure, internally questions if what he is doing is right. The other characters in the story are interesting and add layers. It is a beautifully written story of love, morality, war, loss, friendship and life.   (Whew - that's a lot!)  I like reading historical fiction from WWII.  It is often sad, but a part of history that we can learn from.   A good book!

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Another kidnapping story.  8 year old Ben disappears from the park after he runs ahead of his mom.  There are several people both primary and secondary characters that are in and out of the suspect category.   It is a well written story and interesting, except for one part that just didn't seem to fit or flow well for me.  That part involves a "secret" reveled by her sister.   It's not even so much the secret as it was the way it was written.   It just didn't seem to fit the characters.  Otherwise, I liked the story and the writing style.

The Quiet Game by Greg Iles

My first Greg Iles book.  This is a Penn Cage book set in Natchez.   The story revolves around a killing of a black man in the 60's.   Penn Cage sets out to solve the murder.  There are many reasons he gets pulled into this - all personal - some righteous and some revengeful. I found the story to be a little slow developing at first, but as I got into it, it flowed well.   Mr Iles story brought John Grisham to mind.   Not the same style, but the type story that Mr Grisham writes.   It was interesting and I plan on reading book 2 in the series.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simison

The 2nd story in the Don Tillman series.  I found it harder to get into this one for some reason, but once I did I enjoyed it.   Rosie is pregnant which presents all kind of issues for Don.   These stories, while are somewhat light reading, also make you think.  We all know a Don to some extent - some more "normal" and some less "normal" than him.   The thing that comes through these stories is that Don is a good person who really does want to do what is right. While appearing unemotional and devoid of empathy, he is really the opposite of that.   An entertaining book.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

I have this as a re-read, but I honestly can barely remember reading it before.   I don't hate this story, but I don't know why it is a classic.  I can understand why in the 1950's it was considered revolutionary, profane and different.   I just don't see how it translates to the same level now.  That being said, it is a little depressing book.  Holden is an immature, depressed character dealing with a sort of coming of age.   He is being kicked out of another school and decides he might as well leave early - but not let his parents know.   So he spends a couple of nights in NYC on his own.   I've read that this story is a metaphor for war - but I guess I'm too shallow to get it.   I didn't like the writing style and the story is nothing special.   Not one I plan on reading again - but I know some people love it.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

I liked this book about twin sisters who have "the sense."   It is told by one of the sisters - Daisy aka Kate.   Kate is the more "normal" sister - married, 2 kids and no longer in tune with the sense.   Violet - aka Vi - is the hippier/dippier one - earns a living as a medium, afraid to drive, single, unkept.  They live in St Louis - which I admit was part of the appeal to me since we enjoy going up there and have been several times.  In 2009, a small eathquake hit St Louis.  Vi has a premonition that there is going to be another one hit and Kate gts the sense of the date in Oct.  It is an interesting story about family, growing up, adulthood, a type of fame, expectations, temptation, love and forgiveness.   Some of it is told in present tense, with flashbacks that give background to the story.   I thought it was well written and even thought I was not surprised with where the story went, I enjoyed the trip.

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Books Read - January

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This is a story that took inspiration from a Russian folk tale about a snow girl who came to life.  Jack and Mabel Childress moved to Alaska and claimed land.   They are a childless couple who had lost a baby and were looking for a new start.   One night they build a snow girl.   The next morning it is gone,but a little girl, Faina appears.   She is a child of the woods.   The question that is always in the background is whether Faina is a human or a snow child.   This is a very interesting read on many levels.  A book I recommend.

The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon
A sort of love story.   The Book of Someday was begun by Livvi Gray when she was a young child living in what appears to be a loveless family.   As an adult, her book gets published.   That is where the main story begins.   The story involves 3 women who don't realize they are connected but different events draw them together.   Livvi, Micah, a well known photographer, and the woman in the silver dress and pearl button shoes.   This could have been a really good story, but as I was reading it all I could think of is "made for TV movie."   It lacked depth of character and just did not grab me.  I did finish it so it wasn't all bad, but not one that I would put at the top of a list.

Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult
It's been 8 years since I read a Jodi Piccoult book.   I kind of got Piccoult fatigue - much like I did with John Grishom - and had not really considered any of her books.   The subject of this one and a recommendation by a friend, drew me in. This is a story of a black labor and delivery nurse, Ruth Jackson, a white supremacist couple, Turk and Brittany, a lawyer, Kennedy and how racism is part of our everyday life.  Ruth is a great L & D nurse but she is forbidden to care for Turk and Brittany's son because of her skin color.   The rub comes when she is left in the nursery with him as the only nurse and he stops breathing.   The baby dies and Turk and Brittany demand justice.   This is a good story and it will make you think.   I did feel while reading it there were some contrived situations.  It's not that I don't believe that people are treated the way that Ruth was, it just seemed a little over the top at times.  It became a very preachy book and I think it could have gotten the point across without going so over the top.   I almost hate putting it that way because I do not want to minimize what I know some people live through only because of their skin color.   It did make me think and is well worth the read.

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors.  He has a way with words and the style he writes draws me in.  This story was no different - I was hooked and read it in 2 days.  (It is a relative short book.)  The story is about a family left behind when their sleepwalking mom disappears.   All things point to her drowning, but no body can be found.  The main character is the daughter, Lianna, who is keeping the family functioning while trying to piece together not only what happened to her mom, but also learning some things about her mom and dad that she didn't know.  There is always a sense that there is more to the story than an accident while sleepwalking and Lianna is trying to get some closure in this area. How everything plays out and fits together is very interesting,  

 There is great character development and I loved all of the people in this story.   There is a narrative before each chapter that it is not clear until the end whose story it is.  All of these are things I like about Bohjalian's  books.  My one complaint about this one is the ending.  Not so much what the ending is, but it just felt a little bit like there should have been a little more to the story,   But even with that, I recommend this book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

2016 Book Reviews - September

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
I don't know why I give author's second chances sometimes, but l'm a sucker.   Actually I will try again when it is an author that other's seem to like.  So I gave Ms Shriver another shot.

The main plot of the story is an older brother whom was always idolized by his younger sister.  He shows up at her house weighing as much as a house.  The long stay is taxing enough on the sisters family, but add his weight issue and things are really heated up.  The sister has to make a decision on how best to help her brother and what she is willing to pay to help her brother.  The story, even with a plot twist that left me rolling my eyes, was not a bad story.  I just don't like Ms Shriver's writing style.  She inserts too many "facts" about diet, America;'s views of obesity, types of diets, etc.   I just wanted a story - not a research paper or sermon.

Lies Your Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson
I liked this book.  I didn't like all the characters, but I liked the book.   The story revolves around Lucy, Matt and their children.   It's a one-sided marriage when it comes to love with an old boyfriend, Griffin always lurking it seems.  I didn't like Lucy, but did come to empathize with her a bit.   Matt had flaws of his own, but overall, he was a likable guy.   I don't think I even need to tell you how I felt about Griffin.

The one thing I didn't like about the book was the ending.  In fact most of Part Three seemed a little off to me.   It almost read like Mr. Thomson knew it was time to wrap things up, so that's what he did.   Because of a lapse in time, it was hard to understand some of the choices made at the end.  I would have liked to have known a little more about the children.   I also lost a lot of the empathy I had for Lucy, which as a mother is hard to understand why.   And at the end, I wasn't too sure if I liked Matt or not.   I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just leave it at that.

Overall a good read.

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Another good read.   There's nothing new in this book and really is more about the Kennedy's than the motive behind the killing of John F Kennedy. I enjoyed reading the book.   Well written.

Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith
This is a book of short stories based on old photographs.   Mr. Smith used 5 old photographs that he knew nothing about and used those as inspiration for each story.   I generally am not a good short story book reader.   I will read one or two and then move on to a novel and never pick the book back up.   I know that short story books can be good ones to keep around for filling in when you just have a few minutes or between novels, but for some reason, I seem to forget about them.  All that to say that I enjoyed this collection.   His stories behind the pictures were not what my stories would have been, which makes it more interesting.   How we can all see the same thing but have a different interpretation of it is a good lesson.   This was a nice little find at our library.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker
I like Ms Baker's writing style and liked this story.  It is a moral story of sorts that at times leaned towards a night time soap opera feel (think Dallas).  At times I found myself thinking that some of the characters were too cliche, but I kept reading and am glad I did.   The main storyline is about a family in a small town who are the undesirables.   So of course when anything goes wrong, they are the ones that everyone suspects.   However they are really kind and good people who have been given a hard hand in life.  There are a few interesting turns in the story - some I liked and some I didn't.  But it left me thinking and applying things to life.   That to me is always a good thing.