Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My June Reads, 2015

Eight books read in June - five of them rate as 4.0; two 3.0's and one 3.5. We'll start with the 4.0's:

I revisited an old classic, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" was one of the answers recently on Jeopardy. It reminded me how well I knew the first line of a book I had first read around fifty years ago. I decided to read this novel, first published in 1938, again. It was just as compelling as it was the first time. I did note during this reading that we never know the first name of the second Mrs. de Winter. Why? I enjoy pondering the significance.

Gillian Flynn's books are so edgy - riveting in their depravity. She is good. Scary good. Dark Places is the middle of her three books and the last one for me to read. Libby Day survives the massacre that took the lives of her mother and two sisters. Seven year old Libby believes, as does everyone else, that her brother was the murderer. Her testimony seals his conviction and sends him to prison. As an adult she begins to question her brother's guilt. In an attempt to find the truth of what happened that night, she confronts her past and falls victim to the real killer.

At The Water's Edge by Sara Gruen is a search of a different sort - looking for the Loch Ness monster. The time is the closing days of World War II. Three affluent Americans, Maddie, her husband and his best friend, find rooms in a pub/inn in a small village on the shore of the Loch. They are irritated that no one cares much about their comfort or even if they stay at the inn. Locals are more concerned about acquiring food and fuel than providing privileged perks for the rich Americans.
Maddie befriends some of the local women and learns to care about someone other than herself. When she discovers that her husband is using her and doesn't really love her, it is her new found friends who come to her aid.

I was looking on the shelves for a book by Amy Greene when I saw the title on the spine of Mike Greenberg's novel and pulled it down for a cursory look. The book jacket did not attract me. It was the title and the jacket blurb.
How does a male ESPN sportscaster write such a good book about three diverse women whose only commonality is breast cancer? All You Could Ask For is a fun read for the first part as we get to know the three women and their stories. It is a poignant read in the second part as we read about their cancer treatment choices and outcomes.
Even though this is a book about women and breast cancer, it was a good time for me to read it as my son begins his cancer chemo and radiation treatments. I was meant to pull this book off the shelf.

The final 4.0 this month is Colleen McCullough's Bittersweet. I loved reading all of her books set in Australia though I never read any of her Masters of Rome series. McCullough died January 29, 2015.

Set in Australia during the depression, two sets of twin girls - half sisters - come of age just when women are experiencing greater freedoms. All four join a new nursing program - one of the few occupations open to women at the time. The book explores each woman's strengths and weaknesses as well as the extraordinary bond between sisters.

I have been enjoying Jan Burke's Irene Kelly series so I decided to try one of her stand alone novels, The Messenger. It is a well written and interesting read about characters who live forever. They are not vampires. The main character has the ability to communicate by thought with dying people and then pass their final wishes on to others. This one was my 3.5 rating.

Murder On Amsterdam Avenue is Victoria Thompson's 17th Gaslight Mystery. Sarah & Frank are impatiently awaiting the finishing renovations on their new home so they can finally get married. So in the meantime they are called upon to solve another murder.
This series is set in New York in the early 1900's. I enjoy the setting as well as reading this 'light' murder mystery series. This is the first of my two 3.0 ratings.

Kazuo Ishigura's The Buried Giant is the other. Written as a fable or fantasy set in 6th Century Great Britain, it is quite a departure from Ishigura's previous novels. The writing seems simplistic to me, it does read like a fairy tale. An elderly couple is having trouble remembering things. They decide to leave their village and try to find their long lost, barely remembered son in a distant village. There be ogres and dragons and knights and monks.
About a third of the way in I thought I knew what the book was going to be about - memory loss and how it affects the lives of the devoted couple. And it is that but also about what will happen if/when 'the mist clears' and they are able to recapture all their memories, good and bad.
I felt about this book as I have about some others by award winning authors when I don't think the book is great - "I must be missing something." It is not Ishigura's best writing. It is no The Remains of the Day.


  1. If you like Gillian Flynn, you would probably like "Remember Me This Way" by Sabine Durrant. I just finished it, and couldn't put it down. The author is British, too. I think I recall you saying you like British authors.

    1. Donna - I looked at this book online and agree, I'm sure I would love it. Our library doesn't have a copy so I'll add it to my list for when I go to the big city next time. Thanks for the recommendation. R