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!