Peggy's raves and rants
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Hope it's not too late to be hopping into the group! I'll start with the last few things I read, and then backtrack a few titles at a time until I get all my 2016 reads listed.
Youngblood by Matt Gallagher: A young LT has just 2 more months in Iraq, before his unit can rotate back to the US. His life is complicated when a more experienced Sergeant is placed in the unit and continually challenges his leadership. This is the first novel I have read about the Iraq War; it's gritty and full of ethical complexities. A day after finishing the book, I'm still thinking about it.
Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo: I said in my introduction to the group that my reading selections were varied. Here's the proof. I listened to this Easy Chapter Book while taking an evening walk. I love everything I've ever read by DiCamillo and I like the way this series (Tales From Deckaroo Drive) brings in characters from previous books. Animal Control Officer Francine Poulet loses her confidence after failing to capture a screaming raccoon. Enter a neighbor boy who helps Francine recover her mojo. Amusing and heartwarming, this would be a perfect book for families to share.
Gardens of Water by Alan Drew: The lives of two families are woven together in the aftermath of an earthquake in Turkey. The earthquake is really just a mechanism to set up the clash between a strict Muslim family and the Christian who brings in humanitarian aid. I really enjoyed this one, but would love to discuss it. Any takers?
Here are two detective stories I read recently, both with interesting settings and both the first novel in a series.
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan: The main character is a Muslim police detective in Canada who gets called in to help with crimes which may have implications for immigrant communities. A man is found dead at the bottom of a cliff. When the man's identity is suspected to be that of a wanted war criminal from the Serbian War, the investigation becomes complicated. I found the idea intriguing and liked the way the author brought in the personal histories of both members of the detective team. It's also a good refresher to the atrocities of that war - something that has largely faded in our memories due to the current world threats. However, it is still a timely issue, since just this week, a man was convicted of crimes during the Bosnian genocide. A second book in the series, The Language of Secrets, is out and I will try to find time to read it soon.
The Blood Strand: A Faroes Novel by Chris Ould: To be honest, I didn't even know where the Faroe Islands were when I picked up this book; I think I had them confused with the Falklands. This is the first in a planned trilogy. You can read an interview with Chris Ould at: http://www.mybookishways.com/2016/02/an-interview-with-chris-ould-author-of-the-.... The setting on the islands provides a brooding atmosphere and gives us a rather closed environment for the story to unfold. A UK policeman is called to the islands when his estranged father suffers a stroke. He soon becomes involved in the investigation as his father is linked to a man who washes up dead on the beach. Family relationships are pivotal to the investigation and will probably continue to be an issue in the second book The Killing Bay, due out in 2017.
Welcome to Club Read, Peggy. Looking at what you've posted so far, I'd say you will fit in this group quite nicely. I'm going to recommend that Kate DiCamillo to my daughter for her nine year old. My granddaughter loved Because of Winn Dixie.
Here are the books I have read in 2016 for the adult book club i lead at my library.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey by Gabrielle Zevin: This one wasn't exactly what I had expected, but it was basically a feel-good book, which my ladies need once in a while. Unfortunately, the books that make members feel good do not always lead to the best discussion. One member described it as a fairy tale story. She was approaching the novel from the viewpoint of an educator, and rightly said that you had to completely suspend your disbelief that an elderly man would be allowed to adopt a baby that had been abandoned at his bookstore.
Ordinary Grace by William Krueger: Although Krueger is better known for his Cork O'Connor Mystery series, this was a stand-alone, coming of age story. Everyone at book club loved this and the discussion was excellent. One of the ladies went on to read some of Krueger's mysteries. The plot revolves around several deaths in a small Minnesota town in the 1970s. The young narrator and the themes of racism and loss of innocence give the book an atmosphere similar to To Kill a Mockingbird. Complex characters make this a book that you will continue to think about.
A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman: Reviews had promised a funny book and the premise of someone forging documents to help Jewish immigrant qualify for Holocaust restitution funds sounded intriguing. At book club, there were only two of us who would admit we had liked the book. Looking back, I would say that the experiences of Brooklyn Jews was just so far from our reality as white, middle-aged, mostly Protestant women in Indiana that we didn't quite get the humor. This probably sounds strange, but I found that reading the dialog out loud really helped me "get it." Not really a bad book, but just not right for my group. It might be perfect for you.
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell: This is our book for next week and I'm very hopeful that it will be another winner. I am partial to books with unreliable narrators, and this certainly fits the bill. My book club ladies claim that I love to choose books with crazy people in them, and I think it's probably true. I like crazy - maybe because I grew up in the South! This book was recommended to me by my daughter and I loved the Prohibition setting and the way the author strings the reader along. Still not sure what happened at the end, but I'll be reading it again before our meeting and I'll know what to watch for this time.
Here are 3 more of my 2016 reads:
The Princes of Ireland: Book 1 of the Dublin saga. I choose this partly because I needed a book over 600 pages for a reading challenge and partly because I'm going to Ireland in the Fall. I have previously read Edward Rutherford's New York and enjoyed it. For many years, I was a huge James Michener fan and Rutherford's works remind me of how much I love learning about the history of places through fiction. As Michener does, Rutherford starts with a place and a few characters and shows what happens in that place over many generations. Probably not for everyone, but I enjoyed it very much and will probably read Book 2, The Rebels of Ireland before my trip.
Tales From a Free-Range Childhood by Donald Davis. I attended a storytelling festival on st.Simons Island, GA back in February and really had a great time listening to Donal Davis. Of course, I had to buy one of his books. This was fun to read and is a good choice to pick up if you need something very light that can be read in small chunks. Each chapter almost stands alone as part of his experiences growing up.
Epistles; Poems by Mark Jarman. I rarely read poetry, but wanted to stretch myself a bit with this selection. A couple of days after finishing the book, images were still bouncing around in my mind. This is not a book to be rushed through. Take the time to contemplate Jarman's choice of language. The poems are filled with shifting and often startling images, but provide much to think about and to share. This is very readable poetry, even for those of us who seldom venture into this genre.
I often get so busy reading adult novels to consider for my book club, that I neglect reading YA books, which is also part of my job. I'm almost ashamed to admit I have only read 2 YA books in 2016. I did really love both of these. I recommended Midwinterblood to my mother, because she needed a YA best seller for her reading challenge. She was not that impressed, but then fantasy is really not her thing.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick: This says something about how far behind I am in my YA reading that it took me this long to get to the book that won the 2014 Michael Printz Award. So glad I picked this one up! I loved the structure which moves backward through time and the setting of a remote island (Scottish?) where the characters have been tied together through generations of love. It's inspired me to add more books by Sedgwick to my reading list.
The Good Braider by Terry Farish: Refugees have been on my mind this year for obvious reasons. That may turn into my theme for the year. This YA book is on the current Eliot Rosewater list which is a yearly list of teen books selected by Indiana School Librarians. It's a very quick read, but also thought-provoking. Here's the review I wrote right after reading it, "Safe in our homes, it is almost impossible to imagine the difficulties faced by refugees. This short novel allows us to travel with a teenage girl as she leaves a refugee camp in the Sudan to immigrate to America. I loved that the story continues after the family arrives in Maine and continues to show some of the difficulties refugees face in their new homelands. This was a very poignant story and one that deserves to be discussed. Hopefully, readers will be inspired to learn more about the refugee process."
Just finished listening to this kid's audio-book. I like to listen to juvenile fiction in the car, because I don't have much time in the car. If I listened to adult books, it would take me forever to finish a book. After I posted this review, I read other reviews of this book and was very surprised at how many people disliked it. Perhaps it is better listened to than read? It does seem to fit into the tradition of Southern storytelling, which I love. I think it would be great for a teacher to share this with a class. It would open up some interesting possibilities for discussion about idioms, descriptive language and the voice of the narrator.
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt: What a fun book! There's double trouble in the swamp - a marauding horde of wild pigs and an unscrupulous landowner who wants to turn the swamp into a gator-wrestling tourist attraction. Appelt has the southern idioms down pat and Lyle Lovett's reading was a treat to listen to. I would highly recommend this to kids who enjoy animal stories and to parents or teachers who are looking for a fun read-aloud.
Welcome PeggyDean! I too liked Gardens of Water, a very good debut and I'm sorry to see he hasn't published another novel. It prompted me to do quite a bit of outside reading and I think of it almost every time I hear news of Istanbul.
I wasn't as big a fan of The Other Typist -- thought she dealt with the mystery aspect more by teasing/withholding than tantalizing.
Very glad to see your comments about Ordinary Grace -- I received it as a gift and think I'll pull it out to read soon.
Looking over my 2016 reading, I have focused more on detective stories than I normally do. I've always enjoyed the genre, but this year seem to be picking them up more than usual. Here are a couple more from this year:
The Scribe by Matthew Guinn: I've recommended this to several people. To say the The Scribe is a serial killer / police procedural set in post-Civil war Atlanta would not do this book justice. Complex characters in an unusual setting and time period made this a thought-provoking read. Certainly the door was left open for a sequel and I hope that Matthew Guinn does not keep us waiting too long.
Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I usually try to avoid novels written by celebrities. However, I love watching the TV series Elementary, so thought a book about Sherlock's brother sounded interesting. I really know very little about the entire Sherlock Holmes universe, so I can't say how well this book stayed within already established details. That said, I found this to be well-written and an enjoyable read.
Finally got through Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by Paul Theroux. The fact that it took me over two weeks to finish this book says more about my schedule than the quality of the book. I have read 5-6 of Theroux's other travel books and have always enjoyed them. I preferred this to Dark Star Safari, because Theroux seemed less cynical and sarcastic this time around. What I did not like was the way he traveled only in the summer over 4 years and that he seemed to revisit places as he meandered along. I felt like the repetition and episodes of looping back made the narrative hard to follow. In spite of sounding overly negative, I did enjoy the book and parts were very thought-provoking. Don't read this if you are looking for descriptions of all the Southern places you might want to visit. Theroux's purpose is much different - a description of the most rural and impoverished parts of the South.
Theroux can certainly seem cynical and sarcastic, I sometimes wonder why he bothers to travel at all. But he does write well
Just finished reading Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. I've had my eye on this book at the library since it came out. Even so, i almost abandoned it after the first 2 chapters. The plot revolves around a crime committed at a private resort and chapters are told in the alternating voices of the local sheriff and a park ranger. Both of the narrators have had personal tragedies in the past. This is a bit of a grim read with passages about a school shooting, an attempted suicide, and assorted drug-related crimes. The description of a raid on a meth lab was particularly harrowing. However, there is also great beauty in the descriptions of the natural world, especially in the chapters narrated by Becky, the park ranger. The way the author captured the complexities of an Appalachian community seemed true to me, and I was intrigued enough that I would like to read more books by Rash.
>12 PeggyDean: Sounds interesting nonetheless. I've been curious about Theroux for a while. Would this one be a good starting place you think?
I have wasted entirely too much time trying to read House of Thieves: A Novel by Charles Belfoure. The premise sounded interesting: a New York City architect is forced to help a mobster rob the houses of the city's elite in order to have his son's gambling debts forgiven. I hate, hate, hate to abandon a books, but enough is enough. I've moved on.
Lilac Girls turned out to be much more to my liking. Martha Hall Kelly wrote an absorbing debut novel based on actual experiences of women linked by the brutality of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. I'll be watching to see what she writes next.
I haven't had time to check in with the group lately, but here are the last 3 things I read.
Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo: This was very reminiscent of Lisa See, especially Peony In Love as far as the atmospheric setting. The plot revolves around a maiden whose family has fallen into debt. Her father is considering marrying her off as a "ghost bride" to the recently deceased son of the man the father owes money to. Much of the book involves supernatural traveling through the land of the dead. You need to be willing to suspend your disbelief and just go along for the ride. I felt that a little better editing might have helped to tighten up the plot, but it could be that I only had time to read in very small sections,and then could b what made it seem a little disjointed. Still, a very interesting first novel.
The Human Comedy by William Saroyan: The book challenge I am working on requires a book that I haven't read since high school and I found this short novel on my bookshelf. I only had a vague memory of reading it so many years ago. The main character is a teenager who takes a job delivering telegrams during World War II. This is mostly a coming-of-age story set in a small town in California. I found the book to be both subtle and insightful and a refreshing change from current books that try to pack every page with non-stop action.
Veering off my book challenge list (again!), I picked up Redemption Road: A Novel by John Hart. I read Down River by Hart about a year ago and had been watching for his new book to come out. Hart's mystery novels are full of family dynamics and this one had a couple of scenes with fairly graphic violence, but nothing gratuitous. The writing is so smooth that you keep turning page after page and, when you finally look up, six hours have gone by.The only downside is that I'll probably have to wait at least a year for another Hart book.
A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce: I needed a book based on a fairy tale for my book challenge and I did not want to use one of the Cinder series, just because I have an inherent desire to swim against the flow. This choice, based on the Rumplestiltskin tale turned out to be a pleasant choice. I enjoyed the set-up of 2 sisters attempting to run a pre-industrial era textile mill following the death of their father. The strained relationship between the main character and her husband was my only complaint. This book won the William Morris Award for a Young Adult debut novel.
Still trying to mark off some of the categories for my book challenge. For the "guaranteed to bring you joy" book, I found my very old copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. So glad to read these words again after many years! This was a formative book for me during my late high school years and I found it just as thought-provoking today. Such beautiful writing that I may try to track down some of his other works. The edition I have is made even lovelier by original artwork by Gibran.
For my book club this month, I re-read What This River Keeps by Greg Schwipps. Schwipps grew up in a town very close to where our book club meets and the book has a local setting, so this was a fun read for our group. The plot revolves around eminent domain and a plan to flood the local river to create a reservoir. Family dynamics are also a major part of the book, as well as the rural lifestyle. This book was selected by the Indiana Humanities Council as part of the Next Indiana Bookshelf, a collection of books that are being highlighted during the state's bicentennial year.
Hi PeggyDean! I just found your thread and enjoyed reading your descriptions. I've added three of the books you list to my "library wishlist": The Blood Strand, Mycroft Holmes, and The Other Typist. The way you've described The Blood Strand reminds me, atmospherically speaking, of Tana French's "The Dublin Murder Squad" books. Each book has a certain main character, and in the next book that person is occasionally mentioned, but it's a new, different main character. I like some of them better than others.
By the way, I wonder if you might like The Typewriter Girl by Alison Atlee. I picked it up and an airport and quite enjoyed it.
Thanks for the suggestion! I love reading mysteries, but my reading unfortunately is often driven by the things I need to read as part of my library job.
City of Dark, City of Light: The disclaimer first: I'm generally not a fan of graphic novels. Again, I'm working on my book challenge and this was a category i had been putting off. That said, I am a fan of both Avi and Brian Floca , the illustrator. We have this book shelved in the juvenile fiction area of our library, although teen fans of the genre might also enjoy it. Graphic novels may be an acquired taste, but what I love about reading is the language, rather than the action, so this genre always leaves me feeling unsatisfied in a way. OK, enough griping! This book does have exceptional reviews in the professional journals and I did find the story engaging. I am happy that I read it, because I have some library patrons in mind that would probably love it.
Somehow in all my reading of children's literature, I have never read Anne of Green Gables. So, when I needed a book with a prequel, I reached for Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson. This book came out in 2008 and does a fine job setting the scene for Anne's arrival on Prince Edward Island. It was a very enjoyable read, although it paints a very grim picture of the plight of orphans during that time period. Now I'm looking forward to digging into the original classic.
Been in a bit of a reading slump lately, so progress (and enjoyment) has been slow. The Turner House was a very interesting read, though. Set in Detroit, it is really the history of a large family raised in a now deteriorating part of the city. Very complex family dynamics and the urban setting held my attention and there was enough humor to keep the story-line from becoming overwhelming. I'll be watching for another book by Flournoy!
The Beginning of Everything: Ezra was a high school tennis star and probably the most popular kid in school. He had a bright future all mapped out for him: tennis scholarship to the state university, fraternity member and any girl he wanted. It all came to a halt with a car accident that left his leg shattered. Senior year, Ezra is searching to discover what he really wants and where he fits in as he begins to date the mysterious new girl in school. I loved this book! The characters were funny and flawed. You wanted to root for them, even as you began to feel there might not be a perfect ending in store for them. Sure enough, I got snookered and didn't see what was right around the bend. Give this to fans of John Green and they'll love you for it.
Anne of Green Gables I can certainly understand the appeal of these books. They still stand up fairly well today, if you don't mind the time period. I found the descriptions of Prince Edward Island to be very interesting and loved Anne's spunk, although some of her "mistakes" had me rolling my eyes. I could see her character maturing a bit throughout the book and might pick up the next in the series at a later time.
The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee. This was a second read through for me, due to an upcoming book discussion on this title. I am always a sucker for WWII novels, especially if set in an area other than Europe. I had forgotten that this is told in alternating timelines (1953 and also the war years). The setting is Hong Kong and many of the characters are Brits who get stuck during the Japanese invasion. Colonial attitudes and prejudices are on display, although the book is more about the interpersonal relationships. As in many WWII stories, I am intrigued by the question of where the line is that separates collaboration from just trying to survive.
A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S. Durbin. What I expected was a standard, but entertaining, story about partisans who hide an enemy combatant. What I got was much more delightful - a beautiful coming of age story set in a woods filled with mysterious statues. I was hooked about 30 pages in, when the author reveals the truth about Grandmother's friend. Part mystery and part fantasy, the book touches on the innocence of childhood and the longing for a secret place. The ongoing war is kept in the background, providing just a hint of danger, along with the aching of separation that conflict always brings. Although marketed for adults, I would give this to teens or older children as well.
Two books since my last update.
The Readers of Broken Wheel recommend. I received a free Advance Copy of this book, but didn't get to read it before publication. I found this to be a pleasant enough read, but felt it never quite grabbed my attention. The premise, that a pen pal would opt to stay for 2 months in her dead friend's house, was almost too far-fetched for me. However, I did enjoy all the literary references and fond memories of books the two ladies had discussed. I normally enjoy small town stories with quirky characters, but I also would have liked more depth; I found it hard to become invested. If you are looking for a quick read, this might be your cup of tea.
Between the World and Me was a National Book award winner in Non-Fiction. Thought-provoking and heart-breaking. As a person who "believes herself to be white", this book challenged many of my ideas.It needs to be read slowly and often to allow the realities of the world in which Coates is raising his son to sink in. Perhaps open discussions of the issues raised by this book could lead us into a more hopeful future. I read this in preparation for a book discussion with a Cincinnati Meetup "Shared Values, Different Perspectives", and I'm very much looking forward to the discussion!
Sounds like a very interesting meet up you have coming up. Coates book left me thinking too, and uncomfortable.
Going back a bit, I've pondered reading Anna now, as an adult. I've never read those books before.
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi: i had tried this book a couple times before without making any real progress, but I wanted to consider something set in the future for my book club. I'm also concerned enough about global warning that i wanted to read a novel that addressed the concerns of future water shortages. I will not be choosing this for my book group due to the somewhat graphic sexual content (mostly a conservative group). The image of disintegrating federal control as state fight over water rights was chilling, and certainly provocative. I felt that the plot could have been tightened up a bit; it seemed disjointed at times. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories set in the near future with political implications. However, I did not enjoy this as much as Bacigalupi's YA novel The Ship Breakers.
I read the Coats book recently as well and you are so right that it should be read slowly and often. In retrospect I don't feel like I read it slowly enough.
I have a bunch of sticky notes in it now, but I may read the whole book over before my book discussion.
Tara Road by Maeve Binchy. This was my first book by Binchy and I found it very enjoyable, although I have moved a bit away from reading this type of relationship-based fiction. I can certainly understand the appeal and am sorry that I tried this author so late.
Beta by Rachel Cohn. Cohn explores the theme of clones used as slave labor, while also addressing the larger questions of identity and freedom. A remote paradise for the very wealthy provides the opportunity to contrast the clone's growing awareness of self with the rampant materialism on the island. This was a very enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to the sequel, Emergent.
The Martian by Andy Weir. Are you a MacGyver fan? Do you love classic science fiction more than dystopian fiction or fantasy? Are you interested in creative solutions to problems? If you answered yes to any of these questions, The Martian should immediately go on your “To Be Read” list. When a lone astronaut is left for dead after a devastating storm on Mars, he spends a year and a half trouble-shooting his equipment and hoping someone from Earth will figure out how to rescue him. Big thumbs up!
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. Lauren Wolk had me hooked from the first sentence: "The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie." Set during World War II, Annabelle finds herself drawn into a series of disturbing events which coincide with the arrival of a new girl into the community. As suspicions fall on Toby, a reclusive veteran from the Great War, Annabelle must find a way to stand for justice while balancing loyalty to her family. Although the mood of the book is mostly gentle, I would recommend this for upper elementary students due to a few more descriptive passages of injuries or combat. Having said that, this would be a great book to read with your kids, because of the issues it raises about prejudice, bullying and honesty.So glad I picked this one up!
Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley. Gertie is being raised by her father and great-aunt since her mother decided to leave the family. Now Gertie's mother is planning to remarry and move away. Gertie embarks on a mission to become the greatest fifth-grader ever in order to show her mother what she has given up. Meanwhile, Gertie is being tormented by a snobby new girl who joins her class at school. This story goes deeper than many school stories by addressing the jumbled emotions of Gertie as she deals with the possibility that her mother might move away without ever caring to know her. I loved the interactions with Gertie's friends, especially the way that Jean also expressed the need to be the best at something. The resolution which comes at the end felt affirming without being unrealistic. My only gripes with the book were the repeated use of "Give 'em hell!" by the aunt and Gertie's use of "My, Lord." Certainly these are mild expressions. However, they also seemed unnecessary and may sit uneasy with some readers. I loved the illustrations by Jillian Tamaki, especially the cover art. The cover brought Robert McClosky to mind, so i was a bit surprised to find the book set in the present day, Altogether an enjoyable read.
How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story Of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill: I wish I had read this before my trip to Ireland instead of afterwards! It was very informative, but still an enjoyable read. The book begins with more of the Roman Empire than I was expecting and that portion was a bit of a slog for me. About the time Patrick appeared on the scene, the pace picked up and I was more engaged. I particularly enjoyed the excerpts of poetry. Overall, this was a good overview of Irish contributions to Western European culture and it might serve as a springboard for further reading.
Inferno by Dan Brown
Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Delirium by Lauren Oliver: As a Youth Services librarian, I deal with many YA books and read lots of book reviews. I tend to read more against current trends, figuring that the popular books will always find their way into the hands of readers. Even now, when I am SO over dystopian novels, I'm very glad I read this one. Lauren Oliver draws you in with a great first sentence and gives you a very sympathetic narrator. It's chilling and tender, and I will be recommending Delirium to any teens who have not yet read it.
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