Saturday, July 30, 2016

July Book List

Nine books read in July which isn't bad considering we had company for one week and Christmas in July to ready for and attend. It was a month of good reads - three 4.5's, three 3.5's and one each of 4.0, 3.0 and 2.5.

The lowest rated was the Mary Higgins Clark, I Heard That Song Before, which I read because it was so close to the number one song the year I was born - I've Heard That Song Before. I thought the book might be about that song, but it never did really say what song the title was a reference to. It was just an o.k. mystery written to appeal to the masses without any memorable content; too pedestrian for me.

I added Tatiana De Rosnay to my authors to be read list after seeing her name in the appreciation remarks in another book I liked. The House I Loved is my 3.0 rating this month. It is set in Paris in the 1860's when great swaths of the city were being leveled in order to make room for the wide boulevards of Haussmann's  'new Paris'.
The story recounts the life of a 60-year-old widow who chooses to die in the rubble of her home rather than leave it. It was interesting to read about the neighborhoods of old Paris, yet I felt the ending was, h-m-m, 'iffy'?

My one 4.0 was Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Theory of Relativity. I've been reading my way through her books since discovering her as a new, to me, author. This one is my favorite so far.  A couple dies in a car accident and the two families fight for custody of the 1-year-old daughter they leave behind. Because the mother was adopted and the state law favors 'blood' relatives, the mother's brother, also adoped, is kept from adopting his niece as his sister wanted. His family fights and wins to have the state law changed but it is years before the little girl is finally no longer the ball being fought for in a game and the two families work out their differences. I could only think of how she was affected by having her loved ones fight over her. ALSO how I hope my grandchildren have wills addressing who they want raising their little ones in case something happens to them - something young parents always think won't happen. Also, I'm not certain, but I think the whole 'getting the state law changed regarding blood relatives' probably really happened.

Jacquelyn Mitchard is also the author of two of my 3.5 reads this month: No Time To Wave Goodbye which has the same characters from two of her previous books about the family whose son was kidnapped and then returned years later.
In this one, that son has married and has a little girl of his own. His family all goes to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards when his older brother is nominated in the documentary category for the movie he made about missing children. While the family is watching as older brother wins the award, his little niece is kidnapped.
This book was very good, but using another kidnapping to finally bring the emotionally damaged family back together seemed too contrived, not believable.

I liked Mitchard's The Most Wanted, a little better. A 14-year-old girl being raised by an indifferent mother is talked into writing to an inmate by her girlfriend. She falls in love with the prisoner who is twice her age. Her mother consents to letting them marry but the girl has to go to court to get her rights to a conjugal visit enforced. She ends up pregnant and the lawyer who helped her becomes a de facto mother to her and the baby. An interesting story about love, second chances and what constitutes a family.

The third 3.5 is another De Rosnay novel, A Secret Kept. Again about a Parisian family, one that vacations on the Island of Noirmontier until the mother dies at a young age after becoming involved in an affair. The father remarries, the children grow up and go back to the island for the sister's 40th birthday. Old memories resurface and the siblings begin investigating what really happened to their mother. A good story about love, loss and self-healing.

Laurie R. King is always going to get a 4 or higher from me. Her writing is smart, entertaining and thought provoking. I love her Mary Russell series of which Locked Rooms is #8 and one of the best.
Mary and Sherlock Holmes go to San Francisco to finally close her parents' estates, sell the house, etc. But Mary begins having nightmares and even though she denies having been in the city at the time of the great earthquake, Holmes discovers that she was. She has buried her memories due to the trauma of the quake's destruction and the deaths of her parents and little brother. When someone tries to kill her it becomes imperative that she remember the past in order to move on with her own life. This was one of my 4.5's.

This may be the first Kristin Hannah novel I've read but it won't be my last. The Nightingale is one of those impossibly hard to read but can't put down books. It is about the French Resistance during WWII. Two sisters fight the war each in her own way. Beautiful. Sad. Makes one realize how easy her own life has been. "Wounds heal. Love lasts. We remain." 4.5 rating. (I had just finished reading this book when I learned that Elie Wiesel had died at age 87.)

My final July read is also a 4.5. It is a book brought to me by my daughter and not one I would ordinarily read because I do not like dystopian stories. But she thought I would like it and she was right. Set in the region of the Great Lakes after 99.9% of earth's population has died from a virulent strain of the flu, I found reading it quite disturbing because I already think about such a thing happening. But the book is beautifully written with all the story lines artfully brought together. Station Eleven is Emily St. John Mandel's fourth book and I hope to read her first three.
My daughter does a much better job reviewing books than I. Please go here to read her review of Station Eleven.
As disturbing as the novel is, it is also hopeful and it does make one stop and think about all we take for granted in our lives - fresh water at the turn of a tap, plentiful food at the nearest store, a comfortable bed, medicines, transportation, adequate shelter - loved ones.

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