Sunday, December 30, 2018

First book of 2018 (not 2019, but 2018)

Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama's Inspiring and Historic Presidency (Young Readers)
I had written this blog at the first of the year and when I was reviewing my blogs I saw that the text was not good.  So this is the update on the first blog of 2018!

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.

2018 reading in review

And so we come to the end of the year 2018.  Where did it go? Time is going by way too fast!  I read a total of fifty-one books.  Surprisingly to me, out of that total, ten books were non-fiction!

So here are the sixteen books that I read that I found were either rated by me as excellent or very good:

The Second Mrs. Hockaday-Susan Rivers
A Gentleman in Moscow-Amor Towles
The Gravity of Birds-Tracy Guzeman
The Handmaid’s Tale-Margaret Atwood
Beartown-Fredrik Backman
Crossing to Safety-Wallace Stenger
Rules of Magic-Alice Hoffman
The Stars Are Fire-Anita Shreve
a piece of the world-Christina Baker Kline
Dandelion Wine-Ray Bradbury
The Glass Room-Simon Mawer
Yes We (Still) Can-Dan Pfeiffer
I’ve Been Thinking-Maria Shriver
The Third Angel-Alice Hoffman
Benediction-Kent Haruf
An Echo In The Bone-Diana Gabaldon

To try to get to my top/favorite book of the year, I can eliminate some of those to arrive at my top eight books read in 2018:

A Gentleman in Moscow-Amor Towles
The Gravity of Birds-Tracy Guzeman
The Handmaid’s Tale-Margaret Atwood
Beartown-Fredrik Backman
Dandelion Wine-Ray Bradbury
The Glass Room-Simon Mawer
I’ve Been Thinking-Maria Shriver
Benediction-Kent Haruf

Now this is when it really starts getting are my top five picks:

A Gentleman in Moscow-Amor Towles
The Gravity of Birds-Tracy Guzeman
The Handmaid’s Tale-Margaret Atwood
Beartown-Fredrik Backman
Dandelion Wine-Ray Bradbury

Interestingly, two of these five are older books!

Okay, so now I have it narrowed down to my two most favorite books of the year:

A Gentleman in Moscow-Amor Towles The Handmaid’s Tale-Margaret Atwood

And the winner is: The Handmaid's Tale! I just really loved this book!

I just looked at my 2017 stats. I had read forty-five books last year, so I was able to get more reading in this year! I am going to try to beat reading fifty-one books in 2019. That's my goal for the year!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

I received The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris as a Christmas gift this year.  I had picked it up several times to buy, but always put it back, so I was glad to get it!It was a quick read.  

Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Author: Heather Morris

The book is an historical novel based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew.  In 1942, he was transported from his home to the concentration camps. When his captors found that he could speak several languages he was made to work as a the tattooist.  The story tells of his two and a half years imprisoned, including falling in love with Gita.  The story includes horrific acts, but also acts of incredible bravery and courage among Lale and the other prisoners.

I enjoyed the book primarily because I knew that it was a true story.  I didn't care for the author's style of writing, but the story was good enough to keep my attention.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Benediction, An Echo In The Bone, and The Witch's Elm

The first book, Benediction by Kent Haruf, was chosen by both of my book Benediction

It is getting very close to the end of the year!  I have read/finished three books this month. And I may get another finished before the end of the year!

groups!  I had read it before and reviewed it on March 5th, 2016.  Below is the link to my review:

Re-reading this book was a joy and I think that I enjoyed it even more than my first time reading it.  It was also wonderful to be able to discuss the story and the characters with book group (my other book group meets to discuss this book in a couple of weeks). It is the third book of a trilogy, but totally stands alone in that it is not necessary to read the first two books to follow and enjoy this one.
Great book!

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander Series #7)I finished reading the seventh book of the Outlander series, An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon.  Another great book of hers.  The research into
the history for these books is phenomenal.  In this book, Jamie and Claire were still in America and the Revolutionary War had begun.  Meanwhile, their daughter and her family returned to Scotland in present time. She is able to learn of her parent's trials and joys through old letters that were archived.
Another great book!

Thirdly, I read the new book by Tana French, The Witch's Elm.  I have really enjoyed her earlier books, all mysteries that take place in Ireland.  This book also takes place in Ireland and was a mystery, abut quite different from her earlier books.  This is a long story that seemed way too long to me, but it did help me appreciate what a truly good writer Ms. French is.

The mystery involved is that a skeleton was found in a large tree in the family garden.  Three cousins, who were all adults now, learned that the body found was of someone from their high school that they had been friends with back then. The boy had disappeared while they were in high school, getting ready to leave for college and it was believed that he had killed himself. Of course, the police were called and the mystery was investigated.  The Witch Elm

As I said, the book took way too long to solve the crime (just my opinion).  It was a good story, however.

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 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 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!

Promise Me, Dad

Joe Biden, former Vice President, wrote Promise Me, Dad about the year leading up to his son Beau's death.  I was expecting more about the actual family's dealing with all that was involved with Beau, but the book was, as advertised, about the last year before Beau died.  So I felt like most of the book was about Joe Biden's travels, meetings, etc. related to his work. I wanted it to be a book about the family, and that was, of course, included, but I just wasn't interested in all of the other stuff.

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose

The parts about the family dealing with Beau were heart-breaking and, if possible, made me love Joe Biden even more. 

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was chosen by one of my book groups to read for our September gathering.  It was a book that I have toyed with picking up and reading, so I was pleased to have it chosen.  The story didn't disappoint.  It was easy to read, but was chock-full of family dynamics.  It was a great choice for book group discussion.

Little Fires Everywhere

The story is primarily of two very different families, whose lives seemingly collide at the end of the book.  The book opens with the Richardson family watching their home burn to the ground, assuming that the missing daughter had set fire to the home.  The home was in Shaker Heights, an upper-scale community where the Richardson family, consisting of the parents and their four children, lived.  One summer, an artist and free-spirit Mia and her fifteen year old daughter Pearl, came to town and rented the Richardson's rental home.  As time progressed, Mia and Pearl became intimately involved with the Richardson family.

The story touches upon adoption, secrets, loss and most especially, motherhood.  It's a good story and I recommend it for any book group!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

American Pastoral

One of my book groups chose American Pastoral by Philip Roth for our August discussion.  I don't have a lot to say about this book.  We all agreed that the 423 pages could have been 200.  My goodness, what a wordy man Philip Roth was. And the point of the book?  Everyone is searching and striving for a good, meaningful life. Okay, having said this, the reviews for the book are praising it to the heavens.

American Pastoral (American Trilogy #1)
It is the story of Swede, an all American boy, and how his life went from being a star athlete, admired by all, to being the owner of a glove manufacturing plant, to being the husband of Miss New Jersey of 1949, to one day having his whole life turned upside down when, in 1968, his sixteen year old fanatical daughter's act changed everyone's life forever.

I really enjoyed the core story in the book, but the pages and pages describing one thing killed my enthusiasm.  We deducted that because he was Philip Roth, no editors would confront his writing!

The German Girl

I borrowed The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa from one of my daughters.  I had some interest in it whenever I saw it at the bookstore, so was pleasantly surprised to be able to borrow it! Until I finished reading it, I did not realize that the novel was based on a true story.  I always find that very interesting.

The German Girl: A Novel
The book takes place in two different times with two different characters.  Twelve year old Hannah Rosenthal's story began in 1939.  The story of Hannah's grand-niece, Anna, also twelve years old, began in 2014.  The novel began in Berlin in 1939, when Hannah's parents, who were German and Jewish were realizing that they needed to leave Germany.  After much tribulation, they finally found passage on the German ship St. Louis which was going to Havana, Cuba.  Their plan was to be in Havana for a short period of time, then go on to New York to settle. Hannah's family was wealthy, could afford the better accommodations on the ship, and the purchase of an apartment in New York.  Hannah's best friend, Leo, and his father also were traveling on the ship.

When the St. Louis arrived in Havana, they were turned away.  Havana decided not to take the 900 people on board.  Finally a very few were allowed entry, including Hannah and her mother.  The ship went to both America and Canada, but neither country would allow the passengers to enter the countries. So all of the passengers left on the ship were to be returned to Europe. Hannah and her mother found a place to live and began to make a life there, hoping that Hannah's father would be able to eventually join them.  Hannah's mother was pregnant when they arrived in Havana, and was determined that she would have her baby in New York so the baby would be an American citizen, so she was allowed to go there for a short time, have the baby, then had to return to Havana with the baby, a son.

Forward seventy years to twelve year old Anna Rosen.  Her father had disappeared when her mother was three months pregnant with her, so she and her mother lived in their apartment in New York.  Her mother would talk to her often about her father, saying that he would be back.  Anna knew that her father had been raised by his aunt in Cuba, and that his parents had been killed in a plane accident, but that was about as much as either she or her mother knew. Then one day a large envelope was delivered addressed to Anna's mother.  It came from Canada. In the envelope was a smaller envelope addressed to "Anna from Hannah".

And so the story goes.  From there old family secrets are learned, and family is reunited.

I would have liked to have read more about the history of the St. Louis and the struggle for the refugees on board.  The book was a good story with some interesting twists to it. It would make a good book for a book group to discuss.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Yes We (Still) Can

I'm a big fan of the podcast Pod Save America and my favorite co-host on the pod is Dan Pfeiffer.  When I heard that he had a new book out (his first, I believe), I rushed out to get it.  The book did not disappoint me.

Early on Dan began working on the Obama campaign, and then went on the serve in the Obama White House for six years.  He was the White House Communications Director, then became a senior advisor to the President.

Yes We (Still) Can is Dan's story of his career path, working in the White House for President Obama, and the horror of Trump.  He also discusses the campaign of Hillary Clinton, and lessons that need to be studied for the Democratic 2020 campaign.  The book contains a lot of Dan's dry and funny humor. But the lessons need to be seriously studied over the next couple of years.  He has a lot of political wisdom.

The last chapter of the book is called Thanks, Obama (Seriously).  I found it funny, but very poignant.   Yes, Dan, we are missing him terribly.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Books 5 and 6 of the Outlander Series

It's taken me forever to get through the Outlander series, primarily because they are such huge books and I have to fit in reading them in-between books for my two book groups!

The two that I have recently (used in loose terms) finished were The Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes, 1443 and 1439 pages respectively.  It really took me forever to finish The Fiery Cross, because the story seemed to drag on forever.  It was only near the end of the book that the story became interesting to me, when an unexpected person showed up.  Then I began A Breath of Snow and Ashes right away (in March) and just finished it up this past week.  It was a much more interesting read.

To very briefly sum up both books, Jamie and Claire Fraser were now settled in North Carolina and the two books go from 1771 to 1776, so the Revolutionary War was beginning/going on. But as you can see, that is both books covering only five years together!

I have to say, the author, Diana Gabaldon, does a great job at ending the books in a way that I can't help but immediately want to begin the next one in the series! We'll see how long the next one takes me to get through!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

3 Books Read this Summer

I have been gone to the beach for awhile and am now trying to catch up on blogging.  So these reviews will be short and sweet!

Early One Morning by Virginia Bailey: This was a book chosen by one of my book groups.  It is a story about the aftermath wrought upon a family following the Nazi invasion of Rome in 1943.  A split second decision was made one morning and lives were changed.  Thirty years later the secrets were revealed.

This was a good story and an interesting read.  We all agreed that the author ended the story too abruptly, leaving some questions unanswered. However, other reviews of the book seemed to be content with the ending. The book was published in 2015. I wonder if the author intends to write a sequel.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer: This book was recommended to me by a friend.  It came out in 2009, but I had not heard of it.  It also involves a bit of Nazi era, but is more about a family and a house that they built in the 1930's in Czechoslovakia called The Landauer House.  They had consulted and hired a well-renowned architect to design and build their dream house.  The home was a modern, open design that was breathtaking.  The family settled in well and life was good.  However, Victor Landauer (the owner) was Jewish and as the war progressed, he and his family had to leave the house and flee to America.  Meanwhile, during all of this story, the Landauer's personal lives are evolving with secrets.

I really liked this book for several reasons.  One reason is that the writing is great, characters are well-developed and the story kept my interest.  Another reason is that the story spans about thirty years. And the last reason is that I could easily identify with the process of designing and building one's dream home and the care and attachment for the home.  This book is a definite contender for being in the top five favorite books read in 2018!

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: A beautiful book about growing up in the summer of 1928 in Illinois. Each chapter is a story involving twelve year old Douglas, his friends and his brother, along with various characters in the town.  It is beautifully written and is a book that I will return to over time, like I do with To Kill A Mockingbird.  I highly recommend Dandelion Wine.

Yes, the author is the Ray Bradbury, the well-regarded science fiction writer.  This book is described as a "1957 semiautobiographical novel".  We read it for one of my book groups and we couldn't understand why he wrote science fiction when he was able to write novels as beautiful as this (clearly, we are not fans of science fiction!).  I have seen that there is a sequel to Dandelion Wine and that is now on my to-be-read list!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mary Coin

Mary Coin: A NovelAuthor Marisa Silver wrote a historical novel about the photograph "The Migrant Woman".  Mary Coin (fictional name) was the migrant woman in this novel.  I had a hard time reading this book.  I should have made family trees of the two main characters, because I had difficulty keeping the names of their men, their children, and their grandchildren straight.  To add to my confusion, the chapters were narrated by three characters and in different years.

The book tells a story of two women who lived two very different lives.  Mary Coin, who was born in poverty and ended up working as a migrant woman, and Vera Dare, a photographer, who lived a rather opulent life.  Yet, rather strangely, in the end, the two women had much in common.

In 1936, Mary Coin was widowed and was a migrant worker in California with three children.  As she sat by the side of a road, with her children with their  broken down car, another car passed her, turned around and came back.  Vera Dare was documenting migrant workers at the time and was in that car.  Vera got out of the car, and asked Mary if she could photograph the family.  She posed Mary and her children, took the photos and left. It was a very brief encounter. And they never met again.

Part One of the book began with Walker Dodge in 2010. Walker was a historian, a professor of cultural history, who felt that he never really knew much about his family.  Sadly, his work had taken him away from his own family so much that he and his wife divorced and he was then a part-time father to his two children.

Then the chapters were about Mary, starting in Oklahoma in 1920 as a child, ending up in 1931 in California. Next the chapters were about Vera in California, first in 1920, then in 1932. Part One finished with Mary in California in 1935-1936.

Part Two began with Vera in 1965, then Walker in 2010, back to Mary in 1982 and 1935, and ending with Walker in 2011.

So if I had the before-mentioned family tree, along with a timeline, I could have skipped a lot of my confusion.

Taken as a whole, the premise of the book was a good story. Mary Coin was chosen for one of my book groups and everyone enjoyed the story, but all of us were confused as we tried to discuss the book, trying to figure out who went with who. Would I recommend the book? Only with a warning to the reader to take notes!  Is it staying with me on our move? No.

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is a book that I had been wanting to read since it came out.  I was wandering through the local library the other day and saw it there, so I finally got it to read!  It was an interesting story and I think the book would make an excellent book group choice.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a generational story.  Each chapter is told by a different narrator, with the main character, JoJo, narrating seven chapters, his mother, Leonie, narrating five chapters, and a "ghost" character, Richie, narrating three of the chapters. It is the story of Leonie, JoJo, Kayla (JoJo's younger sister) and Missy (Leonie's friend) traveling through rural Mississippi to pick up JoJo's father, Michael, who was being released from prison.
Sing, Unburied, Sing

JoJo's mother was black and his father was white.  JoJo (who was thirteen years old), his mother, and his sister lived with Leonie's parents. His paternal grandparents (Michael's parents) would not have anything to do with the family because they were black. Leonie was not consistently there to parent, so JoJo and Kayla were being raised by Leonie's parents,  Pop and Mam.  Mam was  dying and Pop was grieving, as were the other characters in their own ways.

There is much in the story about love, hardship, grief and questions.  JoJo and Leonie are each are haunted by those who have died.  Leonie is haunted by her brother Given's death, and JoJo encounters the spirit of Richie, a thirteen year old, who had been in prison years ago (who Pap had known and told stories about to JoJo).

It's kind of a complicated, yet simple story, very rich with meaning.  It was a good book.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


LOVE HER WILD by Atticus is a book of poetry that I was so lucky to have found at the used book store.  I have been wanting this book for a long time! I love Atticus' work and have a Pinterest board of his poetry. And that's how much I love what he has to say!

His poems are usually quite short and exactly to the point!

"The beautiful thing
about young love
is the truth
in our hearts that it will last forever."

Love Her Wild

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver was published in 1988, her first novel.  I had read it several years ago, then it was chosen to be the June read for one of my book groups.  It was a pleasure to re-read it. I would classify it as one of her more "simple" novels.  It is a short, easy to read story.

The Bean TreesMissy decided early on that she was not going to stay in rural Kentucky, become pregnant at an early age and end up stuck in a loveless marriage.  After she completed high school (an achievement on its own), she got a job working in a hospital and worked there for five years, before purchasing her own car.  With the means to leave, she set out west on a journey by herself to wherever her car would take her. She determined to change her name and ended up calling herself Taylor.

She had an eventful journey. Her car broke down in Oklahoma where she was handed a  young American Indian toddler, and once her car was functioning again she and the baby  (called Turtle) took off west once more, finally landing in Tucson, Arizona.

The story is full of adventures as Taylor and Turtle learn to navigate life as it was given to them.  This is the story of how Taylor and Turtle become a family. 

All of the characters are well-developed and you can't help but cheer Taylor and Turtle on in their adventure of becoming a family and living a life.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Hellfire Club

The Hellfire ClubThe Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper is his first novel.  Jake is a CNN anchor and I thought it was interesting and fun that he wrote a novel, especially about Washington DC in the 1950's! It wasn't the best political thriller I've ever read, but it was good.

Charlie Marder was kind of thrown into the political scene from academia.  Charlie was a history professor who unexpectedly was appointed to Congress when a seat was vacant. It turned out that his father had pulled some strings to make the appointment happen.  Charlie had served in World War II and immediately after his appointment to Congress went after a company who had made defective gas masks, of which one had not worked and led to the death of one of Charlie's soldiers.  His fellow Republicans didn't like Charlie opposing the appropriations to the company. 

One early morning, Charlie woke up in a wrecked car that wasn't his. Then he saw that there was a young woman lying dead. He had no recollection of being in the car, or of anything happening, since he had been drinking at a party/gathering at the Hellfire Club the night before.

I felt like the story was a bit disconnected and predictable at times, but also interesting.  Charlie's pregnant wife was a zoologist who went off to study wild horses in Maryland a couple of times and that was kind of hard to figure out with the story as I was reading it, but it tied together in the end. Although I thought that the tie-in was a bit far-fetched.

Tapper had Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy, John and Bobby Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and others tied into the story at times.

The Hellfire Club is a good first novel. I'm hoping that Tapper continues to write.

a piece of the world

A Piece of the World

Christina Baker Kline wrote The Orphan Train, which I liked.  Recently, my book group read her newest book called a piece of the world.  This is another book that I read while down in Alabama sitting at the pool.  I couldn't put it down.

a piece of the world is a historical novel based on the story of Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World.  The author did  extensive research, even meeting some of Christina Olson's family who had known Christina. Reading the author's notes at the end of the book was fascinating.

Christina Olson was born in 1893, the oldest of four children (she had three brothers).  She and her family lived in the old family home in Cushing, Maine.  The home was built about one hundred years earlier by the Hawthorne family, who had left Massachusetts trying to get away from where their name was associated with the Salem witch trials.  The Hawthorne's built a large house up on a hill.  In 1890, there was a snowstorm and a fishing vessel was stuck in the ice.  A young man, named Johan Olauson walked on the ice to his captain's cottage there, and in the spring he walked up the hill to meet the Hawthorn's spinster daughter and ended up marrying her. They settled in the big home and that is where Christina lived her life.

In this novel, Christina Olson tells her story, going back and forth in time.  The novel starts in 1939 when Christina's friend Betsy introduced her to Andy Wyeth.  Andy was a young painter in Cushing, Maine for the summer.  He and Christina became friends and he came to her house almost daily, went upstairs and painted for the day, then left.  Through-out his visits, he and Christina would visit and he learned some of her story.

Early in her childhood (age three) Christina came down with a fever and was quite ill for some time.  After she recovered, she had difficulty with all tasks, especially walking.  She seemed to have some kind of progressive bone disease and there was no cure.  She ended up dragging herself around on the ground as she got older.  Christina had been a good student and when she finished school, she was encouraged by her teacher to become a teacher, but her parents would not allow it, so Christina remained at home with her parents.  She had one failed romance and she was then done with that.

"Maybe my memories of sweeter times are vivid enough and present enough, to overcome the disappointments that followed.  And to sustain me through the rest."

Christina seemed to be a rather miserable person, keeping most people away from her.  She ended up living alone with her brother, and had very few friends.  It was interesting how she connected with Andrew.  But as Andy says:

"You're like me.  You get on with it.  I admire that."

 This book surprised me.  I had first thought that it would be about Andrew Wyeth, but it's Christina's story, just like the painting is "Christina's World".

"I think about all the ways I've been perceived by others over the years: as a burden, a dutiful daughter, a girlfriend, a spiteful wretch, an invalid...
This is my letter to the World that never wrote to Me."
I liked this book very much and would recommend it to anyone

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Stars Are Fire

The Stars Are Fire

"Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love."
William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Anita Shreve's newest novel, The Stars Are Fire, is a book that I have had on my radar for awhile and when I saw it in paperback I grabbed it up.  It was a perfect book for my girl's weekend to Orange Beach over this past Mother's Day. I actually read two books over the long weekend...lots of time for reading on planes and sitting by the pool!
I've long been a fan of Shreve and this book did not disappoint.  The main event of the book was based on a true event that occurred in 1947 in Maine.  Maine experienced a devastating drought that summer, leading to wildfires in the fall that I read elsewhere burned over 17,000 acres and killed sixteen people.

In the novel, Grace Holland is married with two children, expecting her third.  Her husband, Gene, had returned from the war with issues that he would not discuss or deal with.  Grace spent as much with her neighbor Rosie and her children during the day when Gene is at work.  That seems to be the only time Grace has any joy in her life, other than with her children.   

As the fires got closer to their small community, Gene left with the other men to help build a fire break.  Grace fell asleep that night, waking to her daughter's screams.  She put the two children in the baby carriage and headed for the beach.  From that point on, Grace is left to deal by herself with every situation that occurs.  She was forced to summon up all her internal strength as she struggled to care for everyone around her.

There were some surprises and twists in the story that I enjoyed.  I especially loved reading of Grace's strength and determination at the end.

It was a good book, and an especially good summer beach read!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Just Kids

Just Kids by Patti Smith was the April book club read for one of my book groups.  It's not a book that I would have picked up on my own to read, but I really liked it!  Not surprisingly to me, it won the National Book Award. Again, the great thing about book groups is that they get you out of your ordinary book choices.Just Kids

Just Kids is the love story of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.  If you don't know who they are, google it.  Both were amazing artists in their own rights.

In 1966, Patti became pregnant, had the baby and gave it up for adoption. In the spring of 1967, Patti was twenty years old,  had dropped out of college and was working in a textbook factory.  She decided to go to Brooklyn, New York (she was from New Jersey) and stay with some friends, hoping for find a job in a bookstore.  When she arrived, she found that her friends had moved.  But there was a young man staying there, and he led her to the brownstone where her friends had moved to.  He left her there and she found that her friends were not home.  Her friends didn't return that evening so Patti ended up spending the night on the steps of their place.  When the new day arrived she waited for her friends who still didn't return home, so eventually that day she headed back into the city, and slept in Central Park. This was the beginning of her summer in New York, sleeping wherever she could, trying to find work, roaming with other young kids living freely in the parks, etc.  It was also the summer that she met Robert Mapplethorpe.

After she and Robert met at a bookstore where Patti was working, she realized that he was the boy she had met her first day in Brooklyn when she went to her friend's place, and he took her to where they had moved. About a week later, she ran into him in a park, they talked and ended up going to his place.

"As if it were the most natural thing in the world we stayed together, not leaving each other's side save to go to work. Nothing was spoken; it was just mutually understood."

Both aspired to be artists and encouraged and helped each other with their works.

"We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed."

Patti and Robert moved to the Chelsea Hotel where they lived for several years.  There was where Patti met both writers and musicians.  It was amazing to read all of the people that she knew and spent time with, including Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter and Janis Joplin.  And so many more.  They never had much money, sometimes no money. Eventually, Patti moved into writing poetry, then writing music, then performing music.  Robert became involved with photography.  Robert began to explore his homosexuality, and Patti had other relationships, but she and Robert always loved each other. 

The book ends in 1989.  It was hard to read the last couple of chapters.  Patti and Robert's love for each other was deep and abiding.  As one reviewer wrote about this book: "A touching tale of love and devotion."

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


I read Beartown by Fredrik Backman a couple of months ago and just have not felt able to blog about the book as it deserves.  I still don't.  It is an absolutely wonderful book that is full of wisdom and life lessons.  One would not suspect that a book about a hockey team for adolescent boys would be so inspiring.  

The story is about a hockey team in Sweden in Beartown.  Beartown was a very small town in the middle of a forest. The only thing going for the town was their junior hockey team.  The hockey team was good enough that it was competing in the national semi-finals.  And that meant everything for the small community. Until something happened involving the star of the team.

Kevin was the star of the team and every girl's dream.  After winning a game one night, his parents were gone and he had a party at his home.  Maya, the team manager's daughter, was at the party and the center of Kevin's attention.  Things went wrong quickly, leaving Maya traumatized.

"One of the many things snatched from the girl that night is the place where she never needed to feel afraid.  Everyone has a place like that, until it gets taken away from us.  You never get it back again.  Maya will feel afraid everywhere from now on."

After a short time went by, Maya finally told her parents what had happened, and Beartown was never the same again. As accusations flew around town, old secrets were revealed.  And the town had to figure out how to survive with each other.

The characters in the book are so well-developed that it was easy to be invested in each of them.  The love, friendship and concerns of the various townspeople were tested.  The writing in the book was superb.

"Until he put a record on. Perhaps it was something about the old record-player--the crackle in the speakers, the voices filling the room--but Isak fell completely silent.  Then he smiled.  And then he fell asleep in Peter's arms.  That's the last time Peter can remember really feeling like a good father.  The last time he had been able to tell himself that he actually knew what he was doing.  He's never told Kira that, has never told anyone.  But now he buys records in secret because he keeps hoping that feeling might come back, if only for a moment."

My favorite theme in the book was from Maya's mom:

"You never have the sort of friends you have when you're fifteen every again.  Even if you keep them for the rest of your life, it's never the same as it was then." 
So true, in various ways.  This is a great book, that I am sure will land in my top five for 2018.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Rules of Magic

I love Alice Hoffman's work and her newest book, The Rules of Magic, did not disappoint.  The new book is a prequel to Practical Magic. I thought that I had read somewhere that there would be a third book in the series, but I don't know that for sure.
The Rules of Magic

In The Rules of Magic, Susanna Owens left Massachusetts and went to New York where she married and had three children: Frances, Bridget and Vincent.  Susanna did not want her children to be aware of anything magic related; however as the children grew they became aware of "special abilities" that each had.  The connection going back to the 1600's between the Owens family and magic still could not be denied. One could communicate with animals and one could read other's thoughts. 

The book is divided into sections, with the first section being called "Intuition". This section begins with the Owens family history. The first line:

"Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, adn fit into polite society. The children's mother had done exactly that." 
The first Owens traced back in the family came to America in 1680. And someone always fled from the home, never to return.  This is what Susanna had done in the early 1950's.  And there she made her life with her husband and children. The children were always different from other children. Then one morning in June a package arrived for Susanna and she told the children that it was from her Aunt Isabelle.  It was an invitation for Franny to come and visit in Massachusetts.  It was decided that all three children would to for the summer. And the children loved it there. Franny started visiting the local library trying to learn more about the family. And she came across a journal written by Maria Owens. On the first page was written:

"Beware of love. Know that for our family, love is a curse."
While the children were at their aunt's home that summer, a young girl named April showed up one day and they were told that April was their cousin.  April made the summer interesting for the children (kind of like Dill arriving each summer in To Kill A Mockingbird). This section ends with the children heading back to New York after their summer with their great-aunt.

The other sections of the book are "Alchemy", "Conjure", "Elemental", "Gravity", and "Remedy". The book went on with the children's lives, as they grew up and learned to live in the world with their gifts. Each struggled with love and their fear of the curse.  It was a quite touching story of the bond between the children. And those that came later.

And in the end,

"Know that the only remedy for love is to love more."

I'm already anxiously awaiting Ms. Hoffman's next book!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The King of Lies

Yes, I am definitely a fan of John Hart's books.  I came across one that I hadn't read while browsing in a used book store, so I picked it up.  It didn't disappoint.

The King of LiesThe main character of The King of Lies is Jackson Workman Pickens, known as "Work".  Work was an attorney in practice with his father.  His father, Ezra, suddenly disappeared and when his body was found, Work was hesitant to be very helpful to the police because he was concerned that his younger sister, Jean, may have killed their father and he had always tried to protect Jean.

There was a side of Ezra that others did not know.  He had been a very abusive husband and father and Work was afraid that after Ezra met and disapproved of Jean's partner, that Jean had had enough of his abuse and killed him.  Jean had a breakdown after her mother's death and was placed in an institution for a period of time.  It was there that she met her partner, Alex.  As Work soon found out, Alex had her own dark history.  So did Jean kill her father, or did Alex?

The backstory of Work's life was a very interesting part of the book.  As a young boy, he had rescued an older girl from being murdered, and their connection helped balance out the whole story.

The characters were well-developed and the novel is an easy, enjoyable mystery to read.  It was a little predictable, but still a good read.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Crossing to Safety

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stenger is a favorite book of mine.  I hadn't read it for a number of years, so I presented it to one of my book groups to read and it was chosen.  It was written in 1987 and was the last novel that Stenger wrote.

Crossing to SafetyCrossing to Safety is a slow moving book, with no real plot as we know plots.  It is the story of two couples who met at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the 1930's.  At the time, both of the men were young professors and both wives were pregnant.  Sid and Charity were already the parents of two young children, and Larry and Sally were having their first child.  During the first year at Madison the couples became close friends, despite the differences in their circumstances.  Sid was quite wealthy, Larry had nothing.  However, Sid and Charity were generous with everything and their wealth didn't seem to interfere with the relationships.

This book tells the story of over thirty years of friendship between the couples.   The families go through many turmoils and different situations but were always there for each other.

The real beauty of the book is the four characters and their personalities.  Stenger does an outstanding job in developing these characters. Charity was the to be undenied leader of the pack and was not to be crossed or confronted.  Sid acquiesces to her in all.  Larry and Sally were seemingly ordinary as they watched the dynamics of the other couple, and dealt with what challenges life gave them.

The book offers much to think about and allows for great discussion!

More beach reading-The Great Alone and We Were the Lucky Ones

I continue to work on weeding out my rather large collection of books.  We bought a condo in Alabama a year ago, and, while the condo is the same size as the main floor of our home, there are no bookshelves (yet). We plan to move down there sometime in the next 18 months, so the clearing out of books has begun in earnest.  As have the discussions on the need for bookshelves in the condo!

Anyway, we went back to the beach for three weeks in February/March and I read two books while I was there.  Unfortunately or fortunately (depends on who you ask), neither book is a "keeper".

I was so greatly anticipating reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah as soon as it came out.  I had loved her last book (The Nightingale), so I bought The Great Alone to take with me , imagining it to be a wonderful beach read.  I was disappointed.  However, having said that, the book has received good reviews.

The Great AloneIt is a big novel about living in Alaska in 1974.  The Allbright family, consisting of Ernt,his wife Cora, and their daughter Leni moved up to Alaska after Ernt inherited a broken-down old house from a Vietnam buddy.  Ernt suffered from PTSD as a result of his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and the family felt like maybe moving would help him with his anger and restlessness issues. Of course, a geographical move wasn't the answer, but the family remained in Alaska, trying to survive the best they could. Leni fell in love with a high school friend who had his own issues to deal with.  Cora spent her time trying to keep Ernt from getting upset over anything.  Ernt became more and more paranoid and violent.

There were, of course, more characters in the book and some were quite interesting, but I never felt very involved in the story. Disappointing.

The second book that I read was for one of my book groups and was We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter.  I found this book quite interesting.  It is a novel, but is based on the author's family.  It is her first novel.

We Were the Lucky OnesThis book was about the Kurc family from Radom, Poland.  It began right before World War II and told the story of Sol and Nechuma Kurc and their family, consisting of sons Genek, Addy and Jakob and daughters Mila and Halina, along with the spouses of the Kurc children. Each member of the family made decisions about where they planned to go during the war and what they planned to do.  It was an amazing story and not the usual holocaust book.

The book is based on the author's grandfather's history.  As a child, the author had no idea of what her grandfather had been through. A year after he died, she had a high school assignment and sat down with her grandmother to interview her about her grandfather.  And that was when she learned pieces of his story.  Her grandfather was the Addy in the book. After the author completed college, her mother had a Kurc reunion and the author then began to learn more of the family's story.  Ten years later, she began researching and writing this book.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale

 The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is destined to become a classic read, if it's not already.  And, embarrassingly, I just now read it for the first time.  Yes, the book came out in 1986 and I had never read it.  I read it now at the urging of my daughter-in-law. Great recommendation!

So, if there are any readers out there who haven't read The Handmaid's Tale, I found it to be a frightening cautionary tale at this time in our lives.  If I had read it in 1986, I probably wouldn't have cared for it as much.  I found it fascinating!

The Handmaid's Tale (Movie Tie-in)In the novel the United States had been taken over and sent back to a time when women were primarily only good for "using".  There were different levels of women: the handmaid's, the wives, the aunts, the Martha's, etc.  The handmaid's purpose was to become pregnant by her "Commander" (ie. owner). Offred (of Fred-her Commander's name) was the handmaiden telling this story.  She remembered the times when she had been married to Luke and they had a young daughter. She worked and life was as we know it now.  Then the government was taken over and life changed.  She, Luke and their daughter were separated from each other.  Women were not allowed to read, there was no television or movies. Even the stores had pictures, not words, because one was not allowed to read anything.

The whole story was horrifying, yet the goodness of Offred came through.  As did the power of women.  There really wasn't anything hopeful about the book, but in the end, the reader is left hoping that Offred escapes.

I have to add, I (thankfully) always read introductions, author's notes, etc. in books.  At the end of this book is a section called "Historical Notes".  My intent was to just skim over it and as I did, I realized that it was part of the novel!  So glad that I realized that!  It really made the book for me!

I hope that this has not put anyone off from reading the book, because it is well worth the read.  It is short and easy to read, and wonderful writing.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Gravity of Birds

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman was chosen by one of my book groups.  It is a book that has been on my TBR pile for a short while, so I was glad to pick it up to read.  I thought that I had read another novel by this author, but apparently I wrong, as this is her debut novel and it doesn't appear that any other novels by her are out there. 
The Gravity of Birds: A NovelThe book is divided into sixteen chapters.  Thirteen chapters are told in the novel's present time (2007) and the other three chapters go back in time (from 1963 to 1972) to tell the background story of the novel  The book starts in August 1963. 
The novel begins with two young girls at a beach side cabin on vacation with their parents, where the family encountered the painter Thomas Bayber, who was staying in the next-door cabin.  Forty-four years later, Thomas, who hadn't painted for the past twenty years, asked his only friend, Dennis Finch to find and sell his painting Kessler Sisters.  Bayber had become a renowned painter and Finch had been an art history professor who had become an expert on Bayber's paintings.  The Kessler Sisters was an unknown, never seen before piece.  And before Finch could sell the painting, he needed to find Alice and Natalie.  And it appears that the women have disappeared.  Finch and art authenticator, Stephen, began the search to find the women and during their search they began to unravel life-changing secrets that were kept from all parties concerned.
This was a very interesting and compelling book.  I really enjoyed the story.  , and thought that the writing was excellent. Here's a very brief sample of the writing where Alice is talking about the pain she suffered from arthritis:
"I worry there's nothing left of the person I was supposed to be, beyond the pain.  Sometimes I can't separate myself from it.  I think about how when I'm gone, then the pain will be gone, too.  We'll have finally canceled each other out.  Maybe it will be like I was never here at all."
My only criticism is that at the very end the author threw in a rather irrelevant (I thought) added secret that I thought took away from the actual story.  Having said that, it did not alter the ending nor my pleasure reading the book! 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in MoscowI finally had the time to read A Gentleman in Moscow...a book that I had been anxiously awaiting to get to since last summer.  It did not disappoint.  I thought it was an amazing book and I am predicting that it will end up in my top five books for 2018.  We'll see.  I would love to read other books as good!

This novel is not a fast-paced story, nor is it an action-packed story.  It is a quiet story about an elegant man, living a quiet life.  But there is so much to it!

This is counter-intuitive (at least for me), but for such a long book, this is going to be a very short review.  For one thing, I don't feel like I could begin to do it justice, and for another, I don't want to give anything away!

Count Alexander Rostov was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922.  He was accused of writing a poem a few years earlier that was considered to be a "call to action". The Count had lived in the hotel for the past four years in an elegant suite, so that didn't seem to be too bad of a sentence.  Until he arrived at the hotel and learned that he would no longer be living in the suite, but was moved to the attic of the hotel where servants had lived years earlier.  He was taken to his new room, which had been used as a storeroom for the past few years.  Here he was to live out his life in a tiny room, never to leave the hotel again under threat of being shot to death.

One of my favorite lines in the book was the Count stating in his court hearing when he was accused of being a man without any purpose:

"I have lived under the impression that a man's purpose is known only to God."
Great line, great writing.

So this is a story of a man sentenced to live in a hotel for the rest of his life in Moscow during incredibly turbulent times in Russia.  How he manages to have a meaningful life there is the story. An amazing book.  I loved it.