Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My August Reads, 2015

Four of the eight books I read in August including the one rated 2.5 and one of the ones rated 4.5. Beginning with the lowest rated book:
Javier Sierra's The Lady in Blue. I wanted to like this book more, but in reality I just wanted to be done reading it. It tells the legend of a nun in Spain in the 1600's (Sister Maria Jesus de Agreda) whose 'travels' via bilocation bring religious conversion to the natives of New Mexico before the Catholic priests arrived. Her visits were ushered by a bright light and because she wore a blue cloak she was called The Lady in Blue. I think I would like knowing more about this mysterious legend; I just didn't care for its telling in this novel.

Working on up the ratings ladder: My one 3.0 was Elin Hilderbrand's Beautiful Day. As a bride tries to follow all the wedding advice set out in a notebook written by her mother prior to her death from cancer, all kinds of problems among family members ensues. This was an enjoyable romantic read set on the location of one of my most memorable trips - Nantucket Island.

Two 3.5 ratings: Shame and the Captives by Thomas Keneally, a story of the Japanese and Italian prisoners of war in Australia during WWII. I'm a big Keneally fan and enjoy reading novels set in WWII, so this was a double win for me. 
Charlaine Harris' Day Shift. Only after I read it did I realize this was the second in a new series about Midnight, Texas by Harris. I should have read Midnight Crossroad first. I've been a Harris fan since reading her Aurora Teagarden mysteries, the Harper Connelly series and a couple of books from her Lily Bard series. I had resisted reading her most popular Sookie Stackhouse novels, but now that I've delved into her characters from Midnight, TX, I'm going back to read about those from Bon Temps, Louisiana!

Also two 4.0 ratings: I cannot remember where/how I learned of Karen Hesse's 1998 Newbery Award winner for junior readers, Out of the Dust, but I am glad I had added it to my reading list. Being an adult should not keep anyone away from junior or young adult books.* Written entirely as free verse poems, this remembrance of Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of 1934-35, poignantly relates the feelings of a young girl not only living through the dust bowl as she comes of age, but doing so as she comes to grips with her mother's and baby brother's deaths.
* As I wrote that line I was reminded of a friend of mine who helped her mother deal with the early stages of dementia by getting her to read familiar young adult and junior classics when she could no longer comprehend adult novels.

Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff is the other 4.0 winner. Keneally may have informed me of POW's in Australia, but Wolff has written a gripping novel about Japan's prisoners of war on Java during WWII.
The novel relates the stories of two women. The first a modern day thirty-something about to break up with her long-time boyfriend because he has decided he wants children after all and she still doesn't. Unable to tell him the real reason she does not want the responsibility of a child, separating from the man who seems to be her one true love is the only alternative.
The man takes a new job as a head teacher while she pursues another assignment for her profession as a ghost writer. Both hope the separation may somehow change the other's perspective allowing them to stay together.
Ghost writing a woman's memoirs in time for her 80th birthday brings memories and horrors to light for both women, forging a friendship while releasing them from their pasts. Excellently written.

Lastly the two 4.5 ratings: I became a big fan of Erik Larson when I first read The Devil In The White City (set to become a Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio movie) and then his Isaac's Storm about the deadly September, 1900, Galveston, TX hurricane.
Larson's books are not novels, they are works of non-fiction which read as effortlessly as novels. Dead Wake is the enthralling narrative of the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915. The United States was trying to stay out of WWI. Could the sinking of the world's fastest luxury liner have been 'allowed' by Great Britain as a means of drawing America into the war as an ally?
Larson's In The Garden Of Beasts is already on my to be read stack here at home. When I take it back I will get Thunderstruck. I do like reading these non-fiction books.

I have a new appreciation of my brother's writing which is why Saves Nine by Les Lynam is also receiving a 4.5. This science fiction aimed at the young adult audience is the second in his Time Will Tell series. I like that this book is dedicated to our parents, "Who never got to see this side of me".

I noticed how much editing and tightening of the story he had done in this second book than I did while reading the first. Excellent writing and dialog between characters are two of this author's strengths. His characters have become real to me and I can't wait to see where he takes them in the next installment. How he keeps all the time travel elements in order is a mystery. I feature his writing room as having a board covered in different colored sticky notes or strings pinned from character to character to character in order to keep the relationships straight and in the right 'year'.

Before You Leap and Saves Nine will be available soon locally. I am giving them to the library in memory of a friend who died recently. Maxine was a dedicated and revered educator of young people. She never got to read my brother's books, but I'm sure she would have enjoyed them. Once when we were talking about whether or not there were such things as UFO's and aliens, she remarked about how egotistical people were if they believed our planet was the only one populated - that with all the other planets out there, we were the only intelligent life forms! Yes, I think Maxine would definitely have liked Les' books. And I know she would approve of them being part of Gibson Memorial Library.

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