Sunday, December 2, 2018

Catching up

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman was the November pick for one of my book groups.  I have to admit that I wasn't really looking forward to it...it appeared to just be "chick lit", but I was oh, so wrong.

Eleanor is a quirky odd young woman who appears to constantly struggle with living in the world.  She was befriended by Raymond, another rather odd character who was always kind and caring to Eleanor.  He slowly brought Eleanor into the real world, learning about eating out and having conversations and going to concerts, etc. 

Sounds nice, doesn't it?  But the Eleanor's story has a very dark side, that I had not expected from the description of this book.  It ended up being a good story and led to great discussion.  I recommend it!

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway was the pick for my other book group.  I had never read it before so I was anxious to do so.  It's a very short read (I read it easily in one afternoon while vacationing down by the beach). I liked it very much and it too made for good discussion.

If you haven't read it, it is about an old fisherman pursuing a big fish (could I have described that any simpler?).  First line of the book:

"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish."

Hemingway certainly says it better than me!  Anyway, the book is about his journey alone catching a fish and reminiscing about his past.  One of the things that struck me most in the book was he often would say or think that he wished the boy was with him.  He had become a mentor to a young boy who often would fish with him, but the boy hadn't come on this expedition.

It's a incredibly well-written story, that I thought had a lot to think about.  No wonder it is a classic.

The other book that I read on vacation was Barbara Kingsolver's newest book Unsheltered.   The premise of Unsheltered was interesting.  It was about two families who lived in the same house in different times.  The first family lived there in the 1870's, the other family lived in the house in 2016.  Both families were living through presidential elections, and both were facing financial concerns, despite being educated, working families.  Each family's story was interesting, but I just didn't feel like Kingsolver did a good job pulling it all together.  I have liked some of her other books so much and this one just didn't live up to those, in my opinion.

I came across A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan at the used bookstore and thought that it sounded interesting.  It was.

The story is about five generations of mothers and daughters who were witches.  I love multi-generational stories!  The story began in 1821 and continued on to present time.  The women were strong, independent women and I enjoyed each of their stories.  I recommend this book!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Third Angel


The Third Angel

I am a big fan of Alice Hoffman's writing, so I loved finding a book of hers that I had not read.  The Third Angel was written in 2008, so I'm not sure how I missed it, but I am glad that I found it!


This was a little bit of a confusing book to read, and when I re-read it, I may take notes!  The book tells the story of three women in love with the wrong men.  There is a tie in each story that brings each story to the next, but I found that to be fairly subtle, yet I knew there was a connection between the stories.

The first Chapter is called The Heron's Wife, 1999. It is about Maddy Heller, a New York attorney, who went to London for her sister's wedding.  And there, she fell in love with her sister's fiance, Paul.

The second chapter is Lion Park, 1966. This chapter is about Frieda Lewis.  Frieda fell in love with a drug addicted rock star.

And the third chapter is The Rules of Love, 1952. In this chapter, Bryn Evans was to marry, but was still in love with her ex-husband.

The main connection between all three of these chapters is Lucy Green.  She had been a witness to a horrible fatal accident when she was twelve years old, and she had been searching for the Third Angel for over forty years.

"'People say there's the Angel of Life and the Angel of Death, but there's another one, too.  The one who walks among us.' 
He could tell that she was listening. 
'He's nothing fierce or terrible or filled with light.  He's like us, sometimes we can't even tell him apart.  Sometimes we're the ones who try to save him.  He's there to show us who we are.  Human beings aren't gods.  We make mistakes."

I loved this book.  It's classic Alice Hoffman, with just enough mysticism and love.

If Beale Street Could Talk


If Beale Street Could Talk

One of my book groups chose If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin for our book to read in October.  The book was written in 1974 and is probably considered a classic, and it should be.  It is beautifully written and is a good example of how a short book can tell a great story.


The story is about Tish, a nineteen year old black girl, in love with Fonny, an artist/sculptor.  Tish became pregnant and the couple planned to marry.  Their plans were thwarted when Fonny was falsely accused and prisoned for raping a woman.  Tish and Fonny's families began  planning how they could get Fonny free, including hiring an attorney and stealing in order to pay for the attorney, and Fonny's mother traveling to Puerto Rico to confront the woman who falsely accused Fonny.

The story is tragic, yet the families survive and hope lives.  It's a wonderful love story in its own way.  The ending confused me a bit, but that's my issue.  I like cleaner endings and that's not always the best way to tell a story.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Three Summer Reads

The Leavers1) The Leavers by Lisa Ko: How would you like to have your debut novel become a finalist for the National Book Award? That's what happened with The Leavers.  I found myself thinking about this book for a long time after I had finished it. Always a good sign for any book.  It was published in 2017 and has been on my reading radar for awhile.  I was quite pleased when I came across it at the used book store!  As you might guess, the book is about leaving.

One day Deming Guo's mother did not come home from work.  His mother, Polly, was an undocumented immigrant, and no one knew where she had gone.  Deming (who was eleven years old) and Polly had been living with her boyfriend, the boyfriend's sister and nephew. After Polly disappeared those living in the house found they were not able to care for Deming, so he was given up as a foster child, and was eventually adopted by a couple in upper New York.

This wasn't the first time Deming had been left by his mother. The story is told from both Deming and Polly's point of views.  Polly had plenty of "leaving" in her life, too.  It is a story of both Deming and Polly and how they had to learn to live with loss and mistakes.

2) Us Against You by Frederik Backman: Us Against You is the sequel to Beartown. Beartown is one of my favorite books that I have read this year.
So I was anxious to continue the story in the sequel.  I was disappointed.  I did not find the wisdom and caring that I loved in Beartown.  And I got tired of reading it.  The book seemed to go on and on with not much happening, at least that I cared about. I would be curious to see if others agree or disagree.

3) The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows: I heard of this book on a podcast and after hearing the review of it, I put it on my TBR list.  I finally came across it and read it.

The Truth According to UsThe Truth According to Us is historical fiction.  In 1938. Layla Beck refused to marry the man her parents wanted her to marry, and so her wealthy father refused to support her any more! She was hired by the Federal Writer's Project to write the history of a small town of Macedonia in West Virginia.  There she found a room at the Romeyn home and slowly accustomed herself to the life of not luxury! As Layla began to explore the town, she was slowly drawn into the Romeyn family.  The family consisted of Jottie, a spinster, and her brother Felix.  Also living there were Felix's two daughters, Willa and Bird.  Jottie and Felix had twin sisters, Mae and Minerva, who were married, but spent the week days living at the Romeyn house as they could not bear to be apart from each other. And there was Emmett Romeyn, the youngest brother who lived a town over.  All of the Romeyn's were interested in helping Layla learn about and write a history of Macedonia.

I found myself drawn into the story and enjoyed it very much. It is like a painting of a small Southern town where there is much history and lots of secrets!  It was a fun read.  **Side note: the author was also a co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. 



Barracoon

Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston is a treasure. This is a small book, but profound in it's tale. As a young writer and anthropologist, Hurston was sent to Plateau, Alabama in 1927 to interview an eighty-six year old man.

Barracoon: The Story of the Last

Cudjo Lewis was born around 1840 in Africa.  In 1927, he was the last living person transported from Africa to the United States as a slave.  By that time, transporting people for slavery was illegal, but one last ship, the Clotilda was outfitted for the purpose of illegally bringing the captured slaves to the United States.  In 1859, Cudjo had been captured and was placed on the Clotilda.

Hurston was able to befriend Cudjo and learn his story of his journey here from Africa, his time as a slave here, and then his life since slavery. The town of Plateau had been founded by the slaves from the Clotilda.  It was /is three miles from Mobile. Cudjo shared stories of his growing up in Africa, the events and feelings of his capture, his time on the ship, then the horror of slavery once he arrived in the United States.

It's both a sad and enlightening story.  Cudjo's survival through all of the events in his life was incredible.  As was his outlook. 

Hurston finished this book in 1931, but could not get it published.  It is written in Cudjo's dialect and the publishers wanted that changed.  She refused. So this incredibly piece of history was not published until 2018.  Cudjo Lewis died in 1935, so he was never able to see his words in her book. Sadly, Hurston died in 1960, so she never saw her this book published either.


Friday, September 21, 2018

New Prayers

I've been reading New Prayers by Michel Quoist since the beginning of this year.  I just never really got into it, which was sad.  Years ago I had read Prayers by the same author and loved it.  I wasn't able to find a copy of it, so I ordered this one. The prayers are mostly quite long, sometimes several pages long, which I didn't like.  The content was good, just too much of it! I did persevere and finally finished it. Do I recommend it? Not really.  I would like to be able to re-read Prayers and see if it is as good as I remembered it to be!


New Prayers

I've Been Thinking...

I heard Maria Shriver on the Today Show talking about her new book, I've
Been Thinking, earlier this year and when I had finished my last book on spirituality, I decided to get this book to read.  I'm so glad that I did.  I have really taken my time with this book, reading only one chapter at a time.  Ms. Shriver's words have touched me each day. It is a book of "Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life".

I've Been Thinking . . .: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life

There were only a very few chapters that were not full of highlighting as I read them.  One of my very favorite lines was the following:

"Have faith that your best days are ahead of you, that your next frontier will be the most fulfilling time of your life, and that you deserve to be seen as good enough just the way you are-including by yourself."
Great book!