What a month of books! What a month of reading! Twelve books read and three quarters of them are 4.0, 4.5, 5.0 even a 5.0+! We'll begin with the best, the one I just finished and cried when I did:
I don't even know how to begin writing about this book. It is about a young, blind, French girl and her father. It is about a young, orphan, German boy and his sister. It is about a large, blue diamond. It is about pre-WWII. It is about WWII and all its paradoxes. It is about the war's aftermath. It is horrible and it is beautiful.
The chapters are short (some only 1 page) and jump from one time period to another, from one character to another, yet they all come together perfectly.
One of the chapters toward the end of the book is less than two pages long. It is titled The Simultaneity of Instants. It describes in achingly beautiful prose what is happening to several different characters, some 300 miles apart, at the same few seconds. In slow motion I raced through the sentences.
I can see why it took Doerr ten years to write this book. It could hardly be any more perfect.
The 4.5's --
Career of Evil is J.K. Rowling's third in the Cormoran Strike series written under her Robert Galbraith pseudonym. I love P.I. Strike and his partner, Robin Ellacott. With each book we become more involved with the characters and learn more about them. Their relationship with each other becomes more defined, yet more complex. And that ending! I can't wait to read the next book in this series!
Chris Bohjalian is one of those authors whose books I will add to my reading pile without even checking to see what they are about. He is such a good writer. The topic of sex trafficing is not one I would ordinarily read about but The Guest Room handles it informatively, empathetically and scarily.
What can possibly go wrong when an older brother agrees to host his little brother's bachelor party in his family home? Plenty. His whole life can implode!
I adore Kate Morton's books. They always feature a garden in some way. The Lake House is told in two time periods, seventy years apart, and begins with the disappearance of an 11-month-old boy during a mid-summer's eve party with over 300 guests at a family's summer house.
Seventy years later, a London Detective Constable is on forced paid leave which she decides to spend with her grandfather in Cornwall. There she happens upon the lake house, abandoned as it had been at the time of the boy's disappearance. She becomes enthralled with the unsolved mystery and decides to find out what happened to the tot. So many expertly written twists and turns with an unlikely, but satisfying ending.
Sara Donati is not a new author for me but it has been awhile since I've read her. Set in 1883 in New York City, The Gilded Hour is a fascinating, sometimes maddening to read, story about orphans, the poor, and the women who are desperate for birth control and the doctors who are forbidden by law to help them acquire it. Reading it made me grateful, once again, to have been born when I was!
I rated Horan's book about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny van de Grift Osborn, a little higher, 4.5, possibly because I liked the time period and locales in Under The Wide And Starry Sky a little better.
I do enjoy books that are based on historical records and Fanny and Louis (as he preferred being called) left plenty of diaries and letters for direct quotes. Fanny was still married, though separated from her husband, when she met RLS in France. It was hard for her to get a divorce (in the 1880's), but once she did, she and Louis married. Much of her life was spent nursing him through his many illnesses. When they finally found a climate which agreed with his lungs, they settled permanently in Samoa. I learned more about Stevenson, his books and poetry than I ever would have any other way.
The other three books pictured were all 3.0's for me. Ann Purser is a new author for me. Her Foul Play At Four is the 11th book in her Lois Meade Mystery series. I would categorize these as quick little mysteries. The setting for these is a small English Village. Lois Meade runs her own cleaning service company but solves crimes on the side. This was a cute read, but I doubt I will read any more of them.
Rhys Bowen is a favorite author and I love her Molly Murphy Mysteries, but it seems like more and more authors are obliged to come out with a Christmas story. Away In A Manger finds Molly and her ward, Bridie, befriending two sibling street beggars. They quickly realize the brother and sister are not your average street urchins by their good manners and posh accents. The children have been left in the care of a questionable woman by their mother who promises to return in a few days. But she hasn't returned and Molly sets out to find her. I would not have read this book but it is a Molly Murphy mystery, even if it is shorter and less satisfying than the usual MM mysteries.
I learned about Virginia Hamilton and her Newberry Medal and National Book Award winning M. C. Higgins, The Great book while reading Keillor's 'The Writer's Almanac' earlier this month. M.C. (Mayo Cornelius) lives with his family on a mountain near the Ohio River named for his great-great-grandmother Sarah, an escaped slave. Even though I enjoyed this coming of age story, written for 12-13 years old and up, I doubt many of today's young teens would find it interesting - not exciting enough.
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."
I loved J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit the first time I read it and said not long ago it was time to revisit Bilbo, Gandalf, Smaug and Middle Earth. And while I had forgotten much about The Hobbit since first reading it many years ago, I've never forgotten Gollum and my precious. (I have my own precious, worn for many years.) Rated it 4.0 - this time.