Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 2013 Reading List

Beginning with the last book read this month (finished this morning) and one of the ones I rated the highest, 4.5 is Elizabeth George's 18th Inspector Lynley novel, Just One Evil Act. DI Lynley plays a much smaller role in this book as DS Barbara Havers takes front and center investigating the kidnapping of her friend's daughter while breaking almost every rule in the Met's book. I love George's writing and her characters. After eighteen books, I have a vested interest in these people and their lives, though I can't quite see where George is going with Lynley's latest love interest. Guess I'll have to wait for #19.

The other 4.5 is Chris Bohjalian's Midwives. Even though this book was an Oprah Book Selection back when it came out and even though I've become a huge fan of Bohjalian's writing, I put off reading this book just because of the subject matter. I wasn't that much interested in reading about the errors of a New England midwife which cost a young mother her life. I was wrong. The story is captivating and the ending is surprising. If I've learned one thing, it is never to try to outguess this author.

From highest rated to lowest - I'm giving Robert Morgan's The Road From Gap Creek 2.5 - not because I didn't like the continuation of the story of Gap Creek which I read several years ago, but because of the disjointed feeling of this book. It was more like a series of stories strung together in no particular order. It jumped from the narrator's childhood to her adult life back to her children's lives. I did enjoy it from the standpoint of my propensity for stories about the Depression years, WWII settings and the Appalachians.

Another Chris Bohjalian - 4.0 for Secrets if Eden. One thing about this author, you can't pigeon hole him. His books are all very different. The only thing they have in common is the excellent writing and story telling. This book is the first time I've come close to figuring out whodunit before the end of the book - and I was very close to the end before I did. Twelve hours after she is baptized, a woman and her husband are dead in what appears to be a murder-suicide. A teenage daughter is left orphaned and their minister suffers from guilt because he didn't do more to help the woman escape from her abusive husband.

Another 4.0 is Susan Crandall's Whistling Past The Graveyard. In 1963 Mississippi, nine-year-old Starla runs away from the home where she lives with her grandmother to make her way to Nashville and find her mother. She is picked up by a black woman in an old truck in which there is also a white baby. To 'whistle past the graveyard' means to stay cheerful in a bad situation or to proceed while ignoring an upcoming hazard hoping everything will turn out alright. It takes a lot of whistling, but Starla does make it to Nashville and finds her mother, but even then not everything is as she had expected. A good read about what love and family really are.

Jeannette Walls latest book, The Silver Star, is another 4.0. Twelve-year-old Bean and her older sister have been abandoned, yet again, by their mother. Only this time their mother is gone too long and the girls realize she is probably not coming back. They make their way across country to the home of their reclusive uncle who reluctantly takes them in.

After reading her latest book, I realized I had missed reading her second one Half Broke Horses which is the story of her grandmother growing up on ranches in Arizona and New Mexico. For some reason I gave this one only 3.5. The story is related by Walls as though she is her grandmother remembering her life.

The other 3.5 this month is a new author for me, Hallie Ephron. There Was An Old Woman is the book I was reading as I turned 70 - apropos, no? This novel about elderly home owners being taken advantage of was a good read. I didn't tumble to one of the characters being on the side of the 'bad guys' for quite awhile. Well written; I would read more of her books.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell is a book I purchased several years ago when my daughter and I were attending an Inner Gardener meeting at a book store in the East Village. (Des Moines) At the time I thought it sounded interesting, but just never started reading it for some reason. I didn't even realize the author also wrote Cloud Atlas until I did start reading it. I loved this book about a 13-year-old-boy navigating peer pressure, puberty, and his parents' divorce set in a small town in England's Midlands.
When Cloud Atlas became a movie and everyone was reading the book, I had planned to, but then went with my brother's and nephew's reviews and decided to give it a pass. Now I'm rethinking that and am going to at least take a dip into Cloud Atlas and see what I think. I gave Black Swan Green a 4.0.

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