Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dear Edward

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano was a can't-stop-reading-late-into-the-night book! It's beautifully written and although the story sounds as if it would be terribly depressing, it is a quite interesting, tender, hopeful novel.

Dear Edward (Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

The story is about Edward, a twelve year old boy, traveling on an airplane with his family from the East Coast to the West Coast.  The family was moving for the mother's job opportunity.  I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that the plane crashed and Edward was the only survivor of the crash.

The novel is told in alternate chapters, beginning at 7:45 am as Edward's family enters the airport, and through-out the flight telling the stories of the people on the plane, until 2;12 pm when the plane crashed. The other chapters are about Edward's life following the crash, from June 12, 2013 (the day of the crash) until June 2019.

The story is one about survival, surviving the loss of parents, and brother, along with loss of friends where he was from, along with most importantly, loss of self.  Who are you after you lose everything in your life?  How do you ever trust anything or anyone after a loss like that?

It's an amazing story and not one that has any easy answers.  Edward had to struggle for years to begin to find who he was.  Great story!


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Before and After & The Revisioners

Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate is a true follow-up to Before We Were Yours (by Lisa Wingate). Before We Were Yours was a fictional novel about a family whose children were taken into the Tennessee Children's Home Society.  Before and After is "The Incredible Real-life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Society".

Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society

The book is written in a very read-able way, with short chapters of the stories of some of those who were either stolen or taken to the Home.  Miss Georgia Tann ran the home, and would sell the children that were brought there.  If the parents showed up to get their children they were told that either the children were dead or had been adopted and the parents would not be able to find them.

The authors, along with one of the survivors of the Home, organized an informal reunion in Memphis (where the Home had been) after Ms. Wingate's book touring for Before We Were Yours brought out survivors of the Home to her talks/readings. Some of those attending the reunion were children of survivors.  The Home had been run from 1920 to 1950, so many survivors were either gone, or were seventy or older.

The whole thing is just an incredible story.  Though it is not necessary, I would recommend reading Before We Were Yours, before reading Before and After.

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton is, at the heart of the novel, a story of mothers and daughters. It travels back and forth from 1855 to 1824 to 2017. Josephine was the daughter of slaves in 1855 and soon her family escaped to New Orleans and traveled a bit north.  By 1924, Josephine owned a large farm, is widowed, and has a grown son.  In 2017, Ava, the great-great granddaughter of Josephine was dealing with her son and her white mother-in-law. She kept a picture of Josephine with her at all times, for strength and purpose.
The Revisioners


The novel deals with racism, generational memory, and the strength of mothers and daughters. I would say that the generational memory is what holds the characters together. It is a fascinating book!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Vengeance of Mothers

The Vengeance of Mothers-The Journals of Margaret Kelly & Molly McGill by Jim Fergus is a novel based on the true journals of these women.  This book follows the book One Thousand White Women by the above author.  It was published in 1999, a novel based on the true journal of May Dodd who participated in the 1873 Brides for Indians treaty that President Grant signed.  The treaty was with the Cheyennes in which 1000 white women were promised  for 1000 horses.

The Vengeance of Mothers: The Journals of Margaret Kelly & Molly McGill: A Novel

The Vengeance of Mothers takes place right after May Dodd was killed.  These journals begin in March of 1876. Margaret Kelly and her twin sister had just survived the brutal attack on their Cheyenne village by US soldiers, the same attack which killed May.  The sisters each had twin babies at the time of the attack.  All four of the babies died of the cold as the sisters hid in a cave. Soon after the attacks, Margaret and her sister learned that a new group of white women had been sent and they were asked to look after them.  They reluctantly did so.  Molly McGill was one of the new women.  Those who had survived the attack soon decided to leave and head for Crazy Horse's village, with the hope that the two tribes could join together.  This book is the story of both the training and preparation of the trip that the new women would soon be taking, as well as the actual trip.

This is really a fascinating book.  Reading about the everyday day life of the Cheyenne tribe, men and women, was so interesting.  And I felt like I really got to know the characters in the book.  It's a good read!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Review of 2019

Another year has ended.  It's been a good year of reading for me.  I read many, many good books!  I read 60 books, with 5 of those being non-fiction.  As I count down to my top book read in 2019, first I will list the books that I read that I rated as either very good, great, or excellent:

The Clock Dance-AnneTyler
sweet water-Christina Baker Kline
The Girls-Lori Lanson?: great
Where The Crawdads Sing-Delia Owens
Ginny Moon-Benjamin Ludwig
The Glass Room-Simon Mawer
The Cloister-James Carroll
Varina-Charles Frazier
The Golden Hour-t. greenwood
Cemetery Road-Greg Iles
The Thornbirds-Colleen McCullough
Idaho-Emily Ruskovich
Breaking Water-t. greenwood
Bodies of Water-t.greenwood
The Story of Forgetting-Stefan Merrill Block
The Clockmaker’s Daughter-Kate Morton
Before We Were Yours-Lisa Wingate
The Nickel Boys-Colson Whitehead
The Historian-Elizabeth Kostova
This Tender Land-William Kent Krueger
The World That We Knew-Ann Hoffman
Olive, Again-Elizabeth Strout
The Testaments-Margaret Atwood
The Boys in the Boat-Daniel James Brown
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse-Charles Mackesy

So, 25 out of 60 were very highly rated by me.

Here's my top 10:


The Clock Dance-AnneTyler
Where The Crawdads Sing-Delia Owens
The Cloister-James Carroll
Varina-Charles Frazier
Idaho-Emily Ruskovich
The Story of Forgetting-Stefan Merrill Block
The Clockmaker’s Daughter-Kate Morton
The World That We Knew-Ann Hoffman
Olive, Again-Elizabeth Strout
The Testaments-Margaret Atwood

And now, my top 5:

The Cloister-James Carroll
Varina-Charles Frazier
The Story of Forgetting-Stefan Merrill Block
Olive, Again-Elizabeth Strout
The Testaments-Margaret Atwood

My top 3 are easy:

The Story of Forgetting-Stefan Merrill Block
Olive, Again-Elizabeth Strout
The Testaments-Margaret Atwood

Now, the going gets really tough. I loved these 3 books. It's very hard to choose. But, oddly enough, for my top favorite book of the year I am going to choose:

The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block. It is a book that I cannot get out of my mind. It was published in 2009, ten years ago! I have read it twice and still want to read it again. Powerful book!

Story of Forgetting: A Novel

My goal for 2020? I think that I want to be able to read 60 books again! Or more. So off I go to read!


2 more for December

I read The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charles Mackesy shortly before Christmas, and loved it so much that I gave it for gifts! It's a short, easy to read book with incredibly beautiful illustrations.  The narrative reminded me of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, passing on simple, important lessons.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Today I finished Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and The Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep.  It has taken me forever to complete reading this, primarily because I didn't feel any interest in the book.  First of all, Harper Lee was not on trial.  According to this book, Harper Lee intended to write a book titled The Reverend about the true case of murder and fraud committed by a Reverend Maxwell.  She did a great deal of research on the case, but never published anything related to it. It took the author 276 pages to tell that story.  The author did talk to a number of people who interacted with Ms. Lee and that part was interesting to me.  But all in all, I was quite disappointed with this book. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

December reading

I read two books in December.  That doesn't seem like much for me.  I guess that I was busier than I thought!  Plus both books were ones that had to be read quite purposely/slowly.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin OlympicsThe first book I read in December was The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.  Yes, I know, I was slow to come to this book.  First of all, it is non-fiction and secondly, it is about rowing.  Neither of which I really care about.  However, thanks to one of my book groups, this book was chosen!  I found the story to be a very interesting one.  It is about the Rowing team from the University of Washington who made it to the Olympics in Germany in 1936. It is based on the life of Joe Rantz, one of the nine rowers.  The loyalty, compassion, and trust the team had in each other led them to the Olympics.  I wish that the book had covered more of when they were actually in Germany, rather than (what seemed to me) the focus on the day-to-day rowing events.  It is truly an inspiring story of what these working-class guys in the Depression were able to do with their lives.

The second book I read in December was Inland by T'ea Obreht.  I initially had some difficulty figuring out the story, but it was good enough to persevere and I caught on and read on! The book is really two stories that intertwine together over one day. 

Inland (Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

One morning, in the Arizona Territories in 1893, Nora's youngest son Toby (age seven) came running from the creek to tell her that he saw tracks of "the beast".  The family had concerns about Toby's obsession about this beast that he would report seeing.  meanwhile, Nora's husband and two older sons had left the homestead.  Her husband Emmett had left sometime before to find water and as time went by, the two older sons left to try to find their father.

Meanwhile, one of the survivors of the Camel Corps was telling his story of how he had gotten involved with camels and how the Camel Corp had been organized to help clear the West of Indians. This is based on an actual true story! Because the camels could survive so long without water, it was determined that they would be much more useful than horses or mules as the military headed further west.

There are a host of characters who play notably in the stories.  There is a bit of mysticism in the stories.  It is hard to describe all that went on! This is a book that I will return to read again.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Catching Up Again

I finished four books in November and didn't get around to blogging, so I'm doing them all here.  In my defense, November was a very busy month for me!

1) Chances Are by Richard Russo.  I had never read anything by Mr. Russo and I really enjoyed this book.  It was a book club choice and I'm glad it was!  It is about three college friends who meet up on Martha's Vineyard forty-four years after graduating from the same college.  In 1971, the three men were at the same place on Martha's Vineyard with their friend Jacy.  Jacy disappeared that weekend and no one had ever heard from her since then.  Each of the boys had been in love with Jacy while in college.  So on this weekend in 2015, three very different men got together and shared where their lives had taken them, and, again, discussed what could have happened to Jacy.  It's a good mystery with a satisfying ending.

2) The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston.  I picked this up because reading the summary on the back made me think of the Outlander series.  And that this book is the first of a series.  Xanthe was a young woman who decided to move from London with her recently divorced mother to a small town in England.  Her mother was an antique collector and wanted to open a shop in the town (Marlborough) that they moved to.  Xanthe had a gift of touching some antiques and sensing their past stories.  When she becomes enchanted with a silver chatelaine ("a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it"...if you want to know more, google it!). Predictably, Xanthe is went back to the 1600's while she was examining the chatelaine.  An, of course, there is a love interest that develops while she is there.  It was a sweet story, but I doubt that I will go on with it.

3) Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse.  This was another book on sale at Barnes and Noble for $5.  I knew that it was a Young Adult book, but was intrigued with the description of the story so I got the book.  The book takes place in Amsterdam in 1943.  Hanneke, a young Jewish girl, finds and buys blackmarket goods that her clients request.  One day, a client asked her help to find a young Jewish girl that she had taken in, but had vanished. Hanneke does her research and begins the search for the girl in the blue coat.  The story was well-written and, obviously, easy to read.  I'm glad that I read it.

4) And last, but not least, I spent my Thanksgiving in Mexico finishing the last of the Outlander series-Written in my Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon.  I started this book last March and just had trouble finishing it.  It is a really good read, and I finally figured out that I didn't want it to end!  But I finished it and it had a great ending!  I understand that volume nine is being written and I already can't wait to read it!