Tuesday, February 26, 2019



I purchased Becoming by Michelle Obama last fall while in Orange Beach.  I kept getting distracted by other books, but did read it off and on.  I finally finished it this week. 

The book tells of Michelle Robinson Obama's life up until she and President (always my president) Obama left office.  Hers is a great story of growing up in the South Side of Chicago, raised by hard-working parents who were supportive and encouraging in any goal Michelle set for herself. Michelle graduated from Princeton, then Harvard Law School.  She took a position in a law firm in Chicago and that's where she met intern Barrack Obama.

It was interesting to read about how Michelle was not happy in the corporate life and soon left it to work in other areas.  Without realizing it, she was preparing herself to be the First Lady, caring about the lives of others as she began different initiatives.  The book appears to be quite honest about Michelle's struggles with politics and President Obama's career as it took off.  She shares openly about raising her daughters in the spotlight and the joys and difficulties of living in the White House with a family.

The book is very relate-able and easy to read.  I wish that I were friends with her!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient

I had read a few good reviews of the debut mystery novel The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.  I saw it at the library and picked it up to read. 

The novel quickly drew me in.  It was an interesting story...thirty three year old Alicia shot her husband five times in the face (killed him) and she never spoke again.  She was placed at the Groves, a rather high-end psychiatric unit in London.  Psychotherapist, Theo Faber, became fascinated with the story and he was able to procure a job at the Groves to work with Alicia.

The story is narrated by Theo, with parts of Alicia's journal interspersed.  Theo tried to learn as much as he could about Alicia's background, talking to friends and family.

After a bit, however, the novel annoyed me to distraction.  As a retired psychotherapist, I could not get past all of the boundary issues that Theo crossed in the story.  Perhaps that was the point of the story?

I do have to admit that there was a good twist at the end.

Friday, February 22, 2019


Varina (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Charles Frazier's newest novel, Varina, came out last year.  Since his book, Cold Mountain, remains one of my favorite novels, I was happy to come across Varina at the library!  

Varina is historical fiction novel, based on the life of Varina Howell.  Varina was born in 1826 in Natchez, Mississippi.  She met Jefferson Davis when she was seventeen.  He was thirty-some years older than Varina, and had been widowed for eight years.  But they both became smitten with each other and on the 27th of February in 1845  they married at Varina's childhood home.

Between 1845 to 1861, Varina and Jeff had spent quite a bit of time apart. Jeff had been elected to Congress, and they moved to Washington DC. Their time there was cut short when he went off to fight in the Mexican War and was gone quite awhile. While he was gone, Varina returned to her parent's home.  Upon his return, Jefferson returned to politics adn in 1861 Jefferson Davis became the President of the Provisional Government of the Confederates States of America. Varina became the First Lady of the Confederacy.  She was thirty-five years old.  She and Jeff had three living children. A fourth child had died in 1852.

Enough of all this background!  The novel tells the story of Varina, from birth to death in a wonderful way. The book begins in 1906 in this way:

"If he is the boy in the blue book, where to start? He can't expect to recognize her after four decades, and he certainly doesn't expect her to recognize him. The last time they saw each other he would have been no more than six."
On the first Sunday of August, James Blake, a middle-aged black man, went to visit Mrs. Davis in New York.  He brought with him a book and a journal. Six months earlier he had come across a book, First Days Among the Contrabands. He had thought that the book was a mystery story, but it wasn't.  The Contrabands were what the freed slaves had been called. Near the end of the book, he read about a young boy who he thought may have been himself.  If so, the book gave him the information that he had never known about who he was.  When he met Varina this time, after forty years, neither recognized the other.  But he shared a memory of Varina's son and as they talked, Varina realized who he was. (I'm not going to give spoilers).

The way the book is divided is by Seven Sundays.  James and Varina met for six consecutive Sundays to sort out all that they had gone through, both during the Civil War years and after the end of the War.  The Seventh Sunday is the last chapter of the book.

I have read a bit of history about Varina and this novel seemed to follow the facts well.  And I loved the way it was written, both style and wording.  Mr. Frazier is a great author and this book is well worth reading!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Glass Room

My book group read The Glass Room by Simon Mawer this month.  I had read it and reviewed it last summer.  It appeared to be unanimous agreement that everyone in the book group really liked it.  This book ended up in my top eight books of 2018 that I had read.  I re-read it again this month and it is still a favorite!

You can see my review of it that was written last year at:


The Cloister

The Cloister

I had read books by James Carroll years ago and liked them, but he fell off my radar.  While looking through books at the library, I came across his new book (published last year) called The Cloister.  It sounded interesting so I picked it up.  I'm glad that I did. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it! The book tells the true story of Peter Abelard (1079-1142) and Heloise, along with a modern day story.  It covers the few years of Peter Abelard and Heloise's relationship and then their lives over time.

The book opened with a scene from 800 years ago, when Heloise first saw the body of Peter Abelard, her mentor/teacher and lover from years ago.

"Lifeless, yes.  But also old. He had come into his seventh decade, yet she still thought of him as they had been before..."

The book goes back and forth between time.  In New York, Fr. Michael Kavanaugh was giving communion out during daily Mass, and came upon "Runner", his long-ago best friend from the seminary, who he had lost contact with after Runner unexpectedly left the seminary. Runner declined communion and left the church before Michael could find him.  Michael took off looking for Runner and lost him. It began raining so Michael ducked into The Cloisters, a kind of museum resembling Middle Ages architecture. There Michael met Rachel, a docent at the museum.

Over the next few weeks, Michael and Rachel would meet to talk.  Rachel was studying the work of Simone Weil and they began discussing it.  Eventually, Rachel shared that her deceased father had been writing about Peter Abelard and his work, specifically Abelard's views on how the Catholic Church treated the Jewish people.  Rachel and her father were Jewish, and had gone through the Holocaust. Rachel was struggling with all of her secrets and Michael was doing the same with secrets from his past that he had just learned from his mentor that involved Runner.

I found this book to be absolutely fascinating.  I had never heard of Peter Abelard, so his works as presented in the book were very controversial during his time, yet seemed very thought-provoking and absolute truth.  I do want to read more about him. I also thought that the writing of the book was superb...great character development, and a fascinating story.

This beautiful line is actually from Peter Abelard's writings to Heloise:

"May the first time I forget your name be when I no longer remember my own."

Monday, February 11, 2019

Ginny Moon

Ginny Moon

I have ended up waiting a couple of years to read this book.  I kept waiting to find it in the used book store, but never did, so I finally just went ahead and bought it.  Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig is a really good, touching, funny, thought-provoking book.

Ginny Moon is a novel about a thirteen year old girl who has autism and had been in the foster care system since she was nine years old.  Ginny was now with her Forever Parents (adoptive parents) and was settling in as well as could be expected.  She had friends at her school and was active in extracurricular events. However, when her Forever Mom became pregnant, it evoked all kinds of feelings and memories for Ginny, especially about how she had left her Baby Doll at her birth mother's home and didn't know if anyone was caring for it.

Her Forever Parents had rules for Ginny and one was that she was not allowed to use the internet because they were afraid she would try to find and communicate with her birth mother. So Ginny asked her friend at school to look up Gloria, her birth mother.  They found her and began chatting with her.  Ginny wanted to meet up with Gloria to get her Baby Doll back.  And that was the start of Ginny's adventures.

Throughout the book, the reader slowly learns about Ginny's horrendous history, but also about her redemptive future.  It's a wonderful story about the power of  love and hope.

It was interesting to read the author's notes.  He and his wife adopted a daughter with autism, and that's when the voice of Ginny began for him.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing

I had been anxiously awaiting for Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens to come out in paperback.  However, after a glowing recommendation from a book club member whose opinions of books almost always matches mine, I had to go ahead and buy the hardback.  (It was funny when I was at Barnes and Noble buying it, three clerks commented to me on what a wonderful book it was!) I'm very glad that I didn't wait any longer.  It is a wonderful, beautifully written book.  It is the author's debut novel, which is astounding.  It is a book of wonder, mystery, survival and love.

The book begins with the prologue from 1969, telling of a popular young man found dead in the marsh. From there the book goes back and forth in time telling the story of the "Marsh Girl", Kya Clark,

The first chapter of Where the Crawdads Sing begins in 1952 with the story of a young girl living in a shack in the marsh on the North Carolina coast.  In 1952, when Kya was six years old, she watched her mother walk out of their shack. Soon after her mother left, Kya's four older siblings also left, tired of their father's alcoholic rages and abuse.  Her father would leave her for days, sometimes weeks, and Kya learned to survive on her own.

She learned to avoid the truant officers and the social service people and eventually, they quit trying to engage her.  After three or four years, her father drifted away and never returned. This left twelve year old Kya living alone in the shack.  Kya had always been interested in the life around the marsh...the birds, their feathers, insects, and shells.  She collected and studied all of it.  She felt close to the sea gulls that she saw every day.  She sold fresh mussels and fresh fish to the man who owned the Gas and Bait on one of the wharfs, in order to pay for groceries and gas for the boat.

As Kya became a teenager, she became friends with one of her brother's friends.  Tate is interested in all the marsh wildlife also, and as they become friends, Tate taught Kya how to read and they became quite close.  But when Tate went off to college, he never communicated or saw Kya again, leaving her abandoned once more. Meanwhile, Kya had noticed kids about her age, going to some of the remote beaches partying, etc.  She eventually met Chase, one of those kids.  She and Chase became involved with each other for awhile until Kya saw the announcement of Chase's engagement in the newspaper one day, and she would have nothing to do with him after that.  Abandoned once again, Kya turned into herself and began her new life alone.

Did she kill Chase?  You'll have to read the book.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Girls

I don't remember where I heard of this book, either on a podcast or I read about it, but I found The Girls by Lori Lansens to be wonderful!  It's an older book, written in 2005.
The Girls: A Novel

This novel is told by two girls, Ruby and Rose, who were twins co-joined at the side of their heads.  The book is primarily narrated by Rose, who was writing about their lives and hoped that the book would be published.  Ruby was a rather un-enthused participant in the book.

The two girls were very different from each other, both physically and intellectually, but their devotion and love for each other is touching.  Because they were joined at the sides of their heads, they had never been able to directly look at each other in the eyes.  They had been abandoned by their young, unwed mother after their birth.  The nurse attending the twins took them home with her, and so they lived with "Aunt Lovey" and "Uncle Stash" and were loved and cared for dearly.  Through-out their years, many people entered their lives and they strove for as much normalcy as possible. Rose was writing the book as she was dying. The twins managed to live until they were thirty years old and they were proud to hold that record.

The story is fascinating.  The author writes well and captivatingly.  The characters were all very well-developed and interesting.  This was a book that I could hardly put down, and once I finished it, thought about it for several days.  Good book!

my grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry

I loved A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  Some people had raved about my grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry, also by him, so I read it.  It was disappointing for me.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry: A Novel
It is the story of Elsa, a seven year old girl, and her relationship with her rather eccentric grandmother. Sadly, her grandmother died, but she left a kind of treasure hunt of letters for Elsa to deliver to those she felt like she had wronged.  As Elsa goes through the story, she, of course, learns about her grandmother and her grandmother's life, including the difficult relationship between her grandmother and her mother.

I enjoyed the actual story of the book.  My grandmother was one of the very most important people in my life, so I love reading about those relationships.  What I didn't like about the book was the stories that the grandmother told Elsa about the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas.  I'm sure that there was symbolism in these stories that I should have studied, but I just didn't care to do that.

It's just not a book that I would recommend.