Friday, January 12, 2018

The Best!

It's winter here in Illinois, and it has been brutal lately, although I have to admit, not as bad as the East Coast with all the snow.  But it has been really cold here, which is one of my most un-favorite things.

But imagine my joy when I came across this jigsaw puzzle at Barnes and Noble.  It is a puzzle of book covers that have female heroines!!!  My two favorite things I can come up with about winter-reading and doing jigsaw puzzles (the only other things I can come up with are my electric blanket and fires in our fireplace).




Here is the list of book covers on the puzzle.  I am sharing it because, sadly, I have only read 22 of the 50 books. Those I have read are marked by *:

A Wrinkle In Time
*Beloved
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
*Heartburn
White Teeth
*The Color Purple
*The Bell Jar
Pride and Prejudice
A Garden of Earthly Delights
In the Time of the Butterflies
The House of the Spirits
*The Joy Luck Club
*I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
*Rebecca
*Song of Solomon
The Handmaids Tale
The Lowland
The Age of Innocence
*The Good Earth
*The Secret Life of Bees
The House of Mirth
The Awakening and Selected Stories
*A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Play It As It Lays
A Tale for the Time Being
*Wuthering Heights
*My Antonia
*Like Water for Chocolate
The Mediator
*Housekeeping
*Little Women
A Good Man is Hard to Find
Them
Hag-Seed
*Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Night and Day
The Penelopiad
The God of Small Things
*Their Eyes Were Watching God
*bel canto
Wide Sargasso Sea
*The Optimist's Daughter
The Volcano Lover
*Outlander
Soulless
Shiver
Fire
One for the Money
*Jane Eyre
Flowering Judas and other stories

I will say that 2 of the books that I haven't read are on my TBR pile.  I would love to say that I plan to read all the others in 2018, but, in the interest of honesty, there is no way that will happen.  However, I am going to keep the list and try to whittle my way through it over the next couple of years.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Second Mrs. Hockaday


The Second Mrs. Hockaday: A NovelThe Second Mrs. Hockaday is the first novel I have read in this new year.  And I am predicting that it will be in my top five favorites at the end of the year.  That's how much I liked this book.  Admittedly, it is about the Civil War period, which is my favorite, so that has some bearing on my admiration.  But this is a great read...based on a true story, it read like a mystery, along with a subtle (maybe?) love story.


Placidia Fincher was seventeen years old when her step-sisters' wedding took place at the family's home in South Carolina and she first saw and met Major Gryffth Hockaday, CSA.  His first wife had died while he was away at war and he had returned home to care for his son who was also ill. It was during this time that he had gone to the wedding and met Placidia. Mere hours later, Gryffth and Placidia were married and he took her back to his three hundred acre farm and infant son, Charlie. After two nights and one day, the Major was called back to the War, leaving his new young bride with all the responsibilities.

Major Hockaday was gone for two years and there were but few letters exchanged.  Placidia carried on as best she could and surrounded herself with those she trusted, as she went through all the turmoil of living in the South as the War was being fought and lost.  When Gryffth returned home from the War, he learned that Placidia had given birth to a child in his absence and was accused of murdering and burying the infant.

"All I had known for certain when I came around the hen house that first evening in July and saw my husband trudging into the yard after lifetimes spent away from us, a borrowed bag in his hand and the shadow of grief on his face, was that he had to be protected at all costs from knowing what had happened in his absence. I did not believe he could survive it.”
Placidia refused to reveal anything about the pregnancy or what happened after the birth.

The book begins with a letter written by Placidia to her cousin Mildred.  Placidia was in jail at the courthouse when the letter was written. The story is then told through letters, inquest records, and entries written on the back pages of illustrations in a book.  When those entries are discovered years later, the secrets began to be revealed. The time period of the entries is from 1865 to 1892, describing events from 1863.  It is a fascinating story, and a study of how family secrets can affect others throughout the years.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Loved this Christmas gift!


Image may contain: jewelry

One of my favorite Christmas gifts I received last week was a To Kill A Mockingbird bracelet!  As any reader of my blog knows, this is my all-time favorite book, so I thought this was a really thoughtful, meaningful gift!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Dream Big Dreams

Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama's Inspiring and Historic Presidency (Young Readers)Dream Big Dreams is a children's book by Pete Souza, the former Chief Official White House Photographer. It was a Christmas gift to me (along with Obama: An Intimate Portrait which is also by Pete Souza. I have to get to that book soon!)  Dream Big Dreams is a beautiful book for children with a wonderful messages inside, along with gorgeous pictures of the President interacting with others, especially children. It has six chapters titled: Be Kind and Respectful, Work Hard, Make Time for Family, Show Compassion, Have Fun, and Dream Big Dreams.


"It is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow."
Mr. Souza wrote of President Obama in the Introduction of the book:
"He often tells his daughters, 'Be kind and and be useful.'"
As the author wrote, this book "shows the true spirit of the man".  I was tearful when I finished the book and all I could say was "What a good man."  I am proud that this is my first book reviewed in 2018.



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy Anniversary, blog!

Yes, 2018 marks ten years since I started this blog.  So now, I am wondering, should it be "Happy Birthday, Blog", or "Happy Anniversary, blog"? I am happy to report that I still enjoy doing it, maybe even more than when I began!  It is really hard to believe that I have been at it for ten years!

My goals for 2018?  Well, I'd like to get fifty books read, but knowing that I have four more of the Outlander series to read makes that goal difficult.  But I'm more that willing to try! I do know that sometimes I forget to add books either to the blog or to Goodreads, so I need to try to be better about tracking my reading to increase my numbers and to be more accurate!

Maybe I will even make a dent in my TBR piles.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Those piles will just get bigger.

So maybe I just need more beach time. Now, that's a goal that I am willing to work hard at!
Image result for picture of reading at the beach

2017 Reading in Review

It's hard to believe that 2017 is ending tonight!  [This has been a wonderful year personally, but it has also been a most difficult year for our country and I am very glad to see it end. I'm hopeful that much will change for the good in 2018.  I know that I plan to work hard at making that happen.] Okay, so politics aside, back to reading!  It's been a great year for reading for me, although my numbers appear somewhat low.  I am blaming that on the fact that I read four of the Outlander series books this past fall and each one of them is over one thousand pages.  So, just to put it out there, I think that they should each count as two books read! But that's not how this works.

My stats? I read forty-five books this year, with seven of them being non-fiction.  That in itself must be a record for me! So, as I do each year, I will begin with my favorite books and break it down to number one.  This year I will also share my favorite non-fiction separately.

I begin with my favorite sixteen books:

Freeman-Leonard Pitts, Jr.
The Golden Age-Joan London
Soul Catcher-Michael White
Mississippi Blood-Greg Isles
Practical Magic-Alice Hoffman
The Women in the Castle-Jessica Shattuck
Anything Is Possible-Elizabeth Strout
Memory-Philipe Grimbert
Lilac Girls-Martha Hall Kelly
Exit West-Mohsin Hamid
Redemption Road-John Hart
Days Without End-Sebastian Barry
Evicted-Matthew Desmond
Outlander series-Diana Gabaldon (this stands for four books)
New of the World-Paulette Jiles
The Alice Network-Kate Quinn

Two of these books are mysteries, and one is non-fiction. Authors are equally divided as eight men and eight women.

To break the list down further, my top favorite eight books were:

 Practical Magic-Alice Hoffman
The Women in the Castle-Jessica Shattuck
Anything Is Possible-Elizabeth Strout
Memory-Philipe Grimbert
Lilac Girls-Martha Hall Kelly
Redemption Road-John Hart
Days Without End-Sebastian Barry
New of the World-Paulette Jiles

It's interesting that Elizabeth Strout's book My Name Is Lucy Barton was on my list last year. Good author!

And now it gets harder-the top four:

Anything Is Possible-Elizabeth Strout
Memory-Philipe Grimbert
Days Without End-Sebastian Barry
New of the World-Paulette Jiles

I have to say that now it is between Memory and Days Without End.

And I have to go with Memory by Philipe Grimbert. It's not a new book, but something about this story touches me each time I read it. And here's the crazy thing...I just looked at last year's top book and it was Memory. So perhaps it should not be on the list. So by default, I guess Days Without End wins! Maybe I won't read Memory next year, so I don't have this issue!

My two favorite non-fiction books that I read this year were Evicted and Just Mercy.  I highly recommend them.


So there you have it.  I hope this list of favorite books helps with your reading.  I always love to see what books are rated highly by other readers.  I hope you do, also!

The Optimist's Daughter


The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty was written in 1972 which is when I first read it and loved it.  It was chosen for one of my book groups December read.  It's always interesting to go back and re-read a book that you remembered either loving or hating to see how the book affects you after time.  I didn't especially love the book this time reading it, although it is a good story and made for good discussion in book group.
This is a short novel that takes place in New Orleans.  Laurel is a young widow living and working in Chicago who is called back to New Orleans when her father, Judge McKelva, was going in for surgery for a detached retina.  Her father had been widowed and remarried a woman younger than Laurel.  His new wife, Fay, is a very self-centered woman who was quite put out with the Judge for going into the hospital and putting her life on hold while he had surgery.  Needless to say, Laurel finds Fay quite difficult.




Sadly, the Judge does not recover from the surgery and the family was told that he was dying.  After he died, he was taken back to their small town where Laurel and Fay had to deal with each other as they came to some kind of understanding of where each stood.

There are all kinds of family dynamics going on in this novel!  Not only does Laurel have to come to terms with her father's death, but also giving up the family home and the memories of her mother there.  It's a good book and was worth the re-read.

It is interesting to note that this book won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction!






Welty's book, The Optimist's Daughter, is beautifully written to showcase the use of the written language and that of the spoken dialect in small town Mississippi. It's a joy to read and it easily transports the reader to the South and back to the mid-1900's. The story unfolds very slowly. It opens at a somber time for the McKelva family, but we are encouraged as Judge McKelva is an optimist. The limited action picks up speed with additional characters and their interaction. The the real story is not the action, but the self reflection by Laurel, the optimist's daughter. We learn her history and follow her process of letting go. It's difficult to write a story that makes "inaction" the "action" and Welty did a wonderful job of it. It's fair to say that if the story was changed to current time, the ending might have been different -- which would make a great group discussion.
Welty's book, The Optimist's Daughter, is beautifully written to showcase the use of the written language and that of the spoken dialect in small town Mississippi. It's a joy to read and it easily transports the reader to the South and back to the mid-1900's. The story unfolds very slowly. It opens at a somber time for the McKelva family, but we are encouraged as Judge McKelva is an optimist. The limited action picks up speed with additional characters and their interaction. The the real story is not the action, but the self reflection by Laurel, the optimist's daughter. We learn her history and follow her process of letting go. It's difficult to write a story that makes "inaction" the "action" and Welty did a wonderful job of it. It's fair to say that if the story was changed to current time, the ending might have been different -- which would make a great group discussion.
Welty's book, The Optimist's Daughter, is beautifully written to showcase the use of the written language and that of the spoken dialect in small town Mississippi. It's a joy to read and it easily transports the reader to the South and back to the mid-1900's. The story unfolds very slowly. It opens at a somber time for the McKelva family, but we are encouraged as Judge McKelva is an optimist. The limited action picks up speed with additional characters and their interaction. The the real story is not the action, but the self reflection by Laurel, the optimist's daughter. We learn her history and follow her process of letting go. It's difficult to write a story that makes "inaction" the "action" and Welty did a wonderful job of it. It's fair to say that if the story was changed to current time, the ending might have been different -- which would make a great group discussion.