Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Book List

An *average* month of reading for me: 10 books. The three 4.5's are pictured above.

Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop captivated me so much I bought my own copy - the first time I've purchased a new book in quite awhile. "A warm and charming tale of love, loss and power of reading. Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life, using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs." (Translated by Simon Pare.)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry (translated by Alison Anderson) was one of the books Monsieur Perdu recommended to one of his customers which, of course, sent me back to re-read my copy received from son, Mark, (with the recommendation from daughter, Kari) for Christmas a few years ago. I reviewed this book the first time I read it, so here I will only comment about how surprised I was at how much of the story line I had forgotten, even though the characters and ending had stayed with me.

The Nest by Cynthia D' Aprix Sweeney is the third of these 4.5's. Premise is of the "nest egg" left to four siblings by their father, not to be touched until the youngest of the four is forty years old. Meant to be 'a little something' for them, it has grown beyond anyone's expectations. Four different 'needs' cause the siblings (and their mother) to disagree about the money and its distribution. Really a good book about family dynamics, expectations and how the family members react and adjust.

The other book pictured above, Murder In Morningside Heights, by Victoria Thompson, is #19 in her Gaslight Mystery series and a 3.5 rating. Frank and Sarah Malloy are glad to be back from their European honeymoon. Frank and his partner, Gino, also a former NYC policeman, have opened their 'Confidential Inquiries Agency'. The parents of a young woman recently graduated from college have engaged the agency to investigate her murder which happened at the college where she had been hired to teach French. (It seems peculiar to me to have so many French connections occurring.)

My other 3.5's are two Tess Gerritsen, Rizzoli and Isles mysteries, #3 in the series, The Sinner, and #4, Body Double (not pictured because I had just started reading it and thought it would go into my September reads - but was so good I finished it last night). Sadly, next week will be the final episode of the Rizzoli and Isles TV series - I'm just glad I have more of the books left to read!

One of my lowest rated books in awhile is Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling - 1.5. I know my son, Doug, likes Bryson's books and I know this book got good reviews, so I think it is my problem that I am rating it so low. The blurb on the back of the book says Bryson is a "funny, funny, man" but I thought this book was just tedious. I probably would have quit reading it except that I did like learning about some heretofore, unknown to me, interesting, sites in Great Britain. (It was just all his extraneous, repetitious, comments I objected to.) You might expect to learn something about Little Dribbling (is there such a town in Great Britain?) but it is only mentioned once - in the Afterwords and Acknowledgments section. More of Bryson's humour? (Note the English spelling - my humor.)

I learned of Mary Oliver's poetry in one of my daily readings of A Writer's Almanac. Nature figures strongly in her poetry - something I can relate to. Here is the title poem of: A Thousand Mornings

"All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the 
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing."

How I can relate! This slender volume I rated a 3, but I did read through it rather quickly. A slower, more thoughtful reading would probably have garnered a higher rating.

Two If By Sea is Jacquelyn Mitchard's newest novel and I thought her best until maybe the ending which felt undone, to me - like she got to 399 pages and felt as though she had to end it.
Until then, though, I was totally on board. The novel begins with a tsunami in Brisbane on Christmas Eve. Frank's pregnant wife and her entire family, except one brother, perish.
Frank is a first responder and goes out searching for survivors. He saves a three year old boy from a car being swept away, but is unable to save the boy's brother and mother(?). For reasons he doesn't understand, he decides to take the boy with him when he returns to his family home in Wisconsin. Telling everyone he has adopted the son from a previous marriage of the wife of one of his deceased brother-in-laws, Frank soon learns the boy has special gifts and that there are people looking for him to use in exploiting those gifts. And they will stop at nothing - it is up to Frank to keep everyone safe. Rated 4.0, even with the abrupt ending.

My last book, also 4.0, is Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. This is another wonderful book about books by a Swedish author, translated by Alice Menzies. One of the 'reviews' on the back of the book: "Will captivate fans of Nina George's 'The Little Paris Bookshop' and Gabrielle Zevin's 'The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry'." And didn't I just read the former this month and the latter last year? (And loved them both.)
This book was especially interesting because its location was a small town in Eastern Iowa (Cedar County). The author did an excellent job of identifying Iowa places in that area.
An older woman (Amy) becomes pen pals with a young Swedish woman (Sara) because of their mutual love of books. She invites the woman to Iowa for a two month vacation after Sara's job ends when the bookstore she works in closes. Sara arrives in Iowa on the day of Amy's funeral. The entire town of Broken Wheel rallies to make Sara feel welcome and encourage her to stay in Amy's house. At first Sara thinks she should go back to Sweden, but decides instead to move all of Amy's books to an empty store on main street that Amy had also owned and open it as bookstore/lending library. She wants people to learn to enjoy reading as much as she does and Amy did, too. This book is very well paced with an interesting assortment of characters and situations. And of course there are many references to one of my favorite topics - books!

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