Reading

February Reads

Well it took one whole month for my new years resolution to completely derail–one whole month and four seasons of Game of Thrones. Husband and I had never seen it before and we had just finished watching Battlestar Gallactica when our friends brought us seasons one and two of Game of Thrones. They had been telling us for a while that we needed to watch it and we finally listened. One episode and we were completely hooked. One episode and we spent the next three weeks powering through the four seasons. Husband and I had both become drooling, slobbering messes, watching at least two episodes a night. Now that there is no more to see, we frankly do not know what to do with ourselves.

Our evenings seem empty without Game of Thrones. I have even gotten around to picking up those things I think are called books and pawing through them as a cave man might. Needless to say I came no where close to reaching my February reading goal, but that was alright. I knew my new years resolution was a pipe dream anyway. The point is that I am back on the horse and have moved three bookmarks further into three different books. Progress–once again.

Here is the sadly short list of books I read in February:

This is the second book I have read by Anita Shreve and to be honest I just need to take her off of reading list. Everything about this book, and The Pilot’s Wife, was just alright: the writing was alright, the plot was alright, but nothing grabbed me. I found nothing compelling and I didn’t get anything out of reading her books. It wasn’t a page turner to make up for its lack of depth. It was lackluster at best. You all know that I have strong ideas when it comes to what books I should be reading. You only get to read so many books in this life. The number is finite, so why waste your time on anything other than amazing? This was not it.

If you have seen the movie, you have read the book. For the most part. I can’t say that it swept me off my feet, but I feel like it was an important read. Charles Webb does an amazing job of instilling a crushing sense of apathy in his characters. No one seems to really care about anything, as long as no one is embarrassed. As long as the façade looks flawless, who really cares about what is underneath.

I loved Moby Dick, but I found Billy Budd harder to track, harder to get into. It was still beautifully written, but I am afraid some of its deeper significance was lost on me. I don’t thing I really gave the book the attention it needs in order to really get it. Melville’s writing is complex, which anyone who has tried to ply their way through any of his books can attest to. I honestly believe his books are complex in a good way, but in this modern age where we expect literature (dare I call it that?) to be spoon fed to us it can sometimes feel like a chore to sit down and read something that has the meat still on the bone, so to speak.

I will always have a soft spot for Maeve Binchy after The Glass Lake and Circle of Friends. While the Scarlet Feather is no Circle of Friends, I still had a hard time putting it down. This book is just about ordinary people, going about their ordinary lives, and Binchy writes with such simplicity and warmth her books are always a pleasure to read. If you want something light and enjoyable, something that doesn’t make your soul feel dirty, or like you have wasted your time I cannot recommend her enough.

I love getting lost in Mccaffrey’s world of dragons. This one was a lot of fun because there is a lot of exploring of a hot, tropical island and since it is winter here, it was nice to think about swimming in pristine, warm waters and eating perfectly sweet, ripe fruit. These books are not great feats of literature, but they are very well written, fun, and worth the time. I should say worth your time if you like Sci-fi/Fantasy. I know some people do not go in for that sort of thing. I don’t really understand why you wouldn’t, but then again I have good taste when it comes to books 😉

Much of what I wrote about the last book can be applied here, which is really no surprise considering they are in the same series. I didn’t realize that I was reading this one so far out-of-order. This is the 14th book in the series, while the White Dragon is only third. I can say that it stands alone well enough that if you haven’t read 1-13 you won’t be lost. At least I don’t think you will. This book was not as satisfying as books 1-3, which are the only other ones I have read in the Pern series. This moves further away from Sci-Fi.Fantasy in my opinion and would be better described as a political drama. While it was interesting and entertaining, it lacked a page turning quality that I feel McCaffrey’s books generally have.

That’s all folks! Hard to believe isn’t it. I have read something like 22 books since the start of the year and only six of them were in February. I don’t have a calculator on me, but what else did I get done in January? I do not know. Hopefully March will be a little better, but I will be having a baby here in March and I hear that tends to derail the best laid plans. First Game of Thrones and now a Baby.

Life just keeps getting in the way of my literary addiction.

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January’s Books

This post is going to be a doozy, so unless you are interested in a very long list of books that I read in January you might want to skip this post, or maybe just skim it to see if there is something you might like to read here. A couple of posts ago I talked about my New Year’s Resolution to read all the books on my to-read bookshelf. I started the year off with a lot of momentum, mainly because Husband and I went on vacation to Aruba. There is nothing to do on that tiny island other than sit on the beach and read. I would not have it any other way–it was perfect, and since half of my suitcase was filled with books I got a lot of reading done. So what follows is a post about the 16 books I read last month.

I am sorry.

I have been meaning to read this book for a long time. I have not delved much into the world of Virginia Woolf, which I have always felt guilty about. The very basic idea of this little book is that women, in order to write, need a room of their own. Which is more than just a room, but when Woolf inherited a monthly allowance to live on from a dead relative it allowed her the freedom to be her own person, to be free from men, to be without worry about where her next meal would come from, and most of all to have her own space to write and create. I found it a little hard to get into the book, as it is pretty dry and academic, but she had a lot of good things to say and it was well worth pushing myself through.

Reading this collection of poems by Hafiz was just a joy. He was such a happy man and his writing is soaked with it. Every poem seems bursting with love and happiness. This is a very hippy read of course, and living in the home land of Portlandia, I have come across copies of this book in many waiting rooms. Go figure. This is the closest I can get to religion without my skin crawling. But that is the beautiful thing about the great Sufi masters–it wasn’t about religion, it was about self-realization: love and happiness. Can’t get much better than that.

This was another Portland Book Review book, you can see my full review here. This wasn’t a major page turner, but it was a fun take on World War II. Parr takes fictionalizes parts of the war, adding in his two fictional characters to actual events. He does it very well and if you are not a major history buff it is hard to tell fact from fiction. On the whole I feel like I learned a lot about how global WWII was. How many places the war touched, how many people it changed or destroyed. I would recommend this to  anyone interested in history.

I am currently doing some ghost writing for a Cambodian man who grew up during the Khmer Rouge, so I felt that I had to read this book. I really enjoyed it–as much as you can enjoy a book about death. This is the foreigners perspective about the war, which gives the reader insight into the international politics that enabled a lot of the atrocities to happen in Cambodia. I had no idea how many countries were involved in Cambodia’s politics. It was very eye-opening to read.

This is by the same author of the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which I loved. This one was good too, not as good, but an easy fun read, that didn’t leave you feeling like you had wasted any time for sitting down and reading it. It is easy to get invested in Well’s characters–all of them have faults and all of them have virtues, which is a beautiful thing. This definitely falls into the category of women’s literature, so keep that in mind when making your reading selection.

I love Sci-Fi, and I love Sci-Fi done well. This is Sci-fi done well. I am excited to read the next three books in this series. Husband introduced me to the books as Ender’s Game was one of his childhood favorites. I can see why. I wasn’t sure how this book would stand the test of time, as it was my husband’s favorite when he was little, but the book was just as interesting and fun to an adult coming to it for the first time. If you like reading about hypothetical future stories, than this is a book for you.

I had a hard time putting this one down–maybe because I am pregnant. On the other hand this might not be have been the best thing for me to read being pregnant. I couldn’t put it down and ended up freaking myself out over a couple of the chapters. I mean the book is about several different births, some beautiful and some gruesome. I especially had a hard time with the chapter on eclampsia.  That is some very scary stuff, and for about a week after reading that chapter I walked around convinced I was going to go down in a writhing, seizing mess, before falling into a coma and dying. This book is all about women, so keep that in mind. But there are things in the book for someone of the opposite gender. There was a good amount of history about midwifery, which was very interesting. I know my dad enjoyed the book and he is as grizzly and gruff as one can get–mustache included.

I LOVED this book because it places Japanese and American cultures side by side, you get to learn a lot about our similarities and differences. Besides it is also very well written with an interesting plot. The story is told from the perspective of a couple of different characters, each one unique with well developed voices. At its heart this is a mother-daughter story, but it is also an immigration story, a war story, a love story.

I read this in a couple of hours one evening when I decided to treat myself to an easy book. I love Mercedes Lackey, and this is one of her newer ones. While I feel like she is writing the same story over and over (especially in the Elemental Masters Series), I have a hard time not enjoying her books anyway.  I have also read almost every book in this series, so I feel like I am obligated to read any new ones that she comes out with. I like that some of them are loosely based on fairy tales and i am a huge fan of magic/fantasy books. So if you want a quick, easy, read that doesn’t take any brain power this would be it.

Matthew Dickman is my all-time favorite poet. His first collection was marvelous. He is so quirky and dark. He has such an interesting way of looking at the world, and I cannot get enough of his rhythm. His poems are a lot of fun to read out loud. I had the privilege of hearing him read is own work when he came to visit my university, so I have a pretty good idea of his cadence and style, which only makes his poems that much better. Now this collection is very dark. If there ever was a port headed to suicide Dickman is it. Or at least that was the feeling I got reading these poems. A lot of them are about grief and loss, depression without the angst. I really hope he doesn’t commit suicide because I want to go on reading his work for years to come. Fingers crossed.

This was NOTHING like the movie. Besides the name of the main character, nothing else matched. I am having a hard time seeing how they even say that the movies were made from the books. I enjoyed the movies better, but I still had fun reading the book. I don’t really feel compelled to go out and read the rest of Ludlum’s work, mainly because I do not get much out of this genre other than entertainment, and I generally like to get a something more out of my reading.

This is an older book, so if you enjoy reading things from earlier centuries then this is a good pick. The Moonstone is touted as one of the first, if not the first, book written in the mystery/crime genre. Yes it is that old. I enjoyed reading it as you can tell it was written by someone with a good sense of humor. It takes a little while to get through this book, just because the style is a bit of an adjustment to our modern minds, but once you get used to the language it is pretty smooth sailing. Just expect that everything will be described in-depth, a little too in-depth maybe, but that was a hallmark of anything written around that time.

My sister-in-law gave me this book after the birth of her baby. It was interesting to read and very reassuring as a first time momma. As a society we have done a very good job of integrating fear into birth, even though it is a very natural and normal experience. While I do not plan on following this book like a religion, it did help me relax a little over the idea of giving birth. I have always felt pretty confident when it came to the idea of giving birth, but being around doctors and really anyone who has anything to say about pregnancy weakens that innate sense of confidence. This book helped me to stand firm and to hold onto my confidence. BIrth is a natural experience that our bodies were built to achieve. The biggest take away I had is that the more fear we have the more pain we will have, but since this is something that our bodies are meant to do you can relax into the birthing experience and trust your body. I will let you know how it goes in a couple of weeks.

I tore through this one–which is often the case with any literature regarding the Holocaust for me. This is a very short read, about a Danish couple who hide a Jewish man in their home during the war. It was well written and by the time I got to the middle I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what was going to happen, which is always a good feeling when a book can wrap you up like that. I would highly recommend this one, especially if you have a morbid curiosity with the Holocaust like I do.

I read the first half of this book the traditional way, and the second half I read via audiobook. I have to say that it is a lot easier for a book to get under your skin when you are reading it, rather than listening to someone read it to you. Something about the act of reading maybe? Hunching over a book makes you feel like looking over your shoulder, and no book makes you feel like you need to look over your shoulder like Dracula. I really enjoyed it.

My good friend Karen recommended this book to me. It was a lot of fun to read, being a mystery written for young adults. Every character is very weird, so when you get a bunch of odd ducks forced into a situations together, fun and interesting things are bound to happen. It reads a lot like the podcast Welcome to Nightvale, if any of you are familiar with that. The same friend who had me read this book also introduced me the that podcast, which is no surprise. The only difference between this book and that podcast is that the book makes sense at the end,  while the podcast never does.

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The Worst Books of 2014

Here is the sister post to The Best Books of 2014. I am sure that these are not the WORST books EVER to be read in 2014, but they were at the bottom of the heap of books I read last year. I hate writing bad reviews, but sometimes there is just no way around it. Sometimes the book has the wrong audience and sometimes the book is just bad–sometimes it is a bit of both. Thankfully the list is very short, otherwise it would have been a rough year of reading.

I am a huge James Bond fan–at least the movies. I have loved all the James Bond men, including Pierce Brosnan, but especially Daniel Craig. Who doesn’t love Daniel Craig? I had assumed that my love for the movies would easily translate into a love for the books. Boy was I wrong. This is the only James Bond novel I have read. It was the first and it will be the last. The book was packed with action, which was fun, but the book was so sexist it was a little hard to stomach. The movies tone it down a bit and package it with Daniel Craig. The movies–especially the newer ones have a bit more depth. The books on the other hand were written by a man, for men. The women are all blond and helpless, and even when there is a competent broad in the book James spends all of his either lusting after her, or worrying that she cannot handle herself. I don’t need to read the rest of the books to know that I am not really missing anything special. I will stick to the movies.

Having read the Pregnancy book by Sears, this one was a little harder to swallow. It has a ton of great information, but I feel like it does not go as in-depth into some of the biology of what is going on during pregnancy as it could have. This book is perfect for the western medicine woman who is willing to take everything at face value. I like to educate myself instead of just being told how things are. I like to understand the why and how of things, and this book does not offer a ton in the way of education.

I was assigned to read this book for the Portland Book Review. It wasn’t bad’ it just wasn’t great. The plot is somewhat interesting, but the characters feel a little bland, and the writing holds you at a distance. To be honest, this feels like the authors first attempt–not the finished product. Here is the link to my full review over at the Portland Book Review, if you would like more information.

I usually love me some David Sedaris. I find him funny, very entertaining, and witty, but I just could not get into this one. All of the stories are a little harsh, non of the characters are very complicated, often displaying one or two faults that will end up driving the story into a negative place where I suppose we can all learn a lesson. For those who have not read it, this is a compilation of short stories about different animals. I remember truly enjoying one of the short stories and the rest I sort of cringed through.

And that is the list! I told you it would be short, though not sweet as nothing I wrote was really complimentary of any of these books. I know it shows, but I enjoyed writing the Best Books of 2014 a lot more than this post. I would rather gush about a book then feel the need to say something critical.

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Best Books of 2014

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked last year, but in what I read there were some real gems. I tend to gravitate towards books that are written by women. Out of all the books on this list, only one was written by a man. Go figure. I didn’t intend to only like books written by women, but Husband tells me there is nothing surprising in this. I am sure he is right. Below is the list of the best books I read last year. To see a every book I read last year you can visit me at my Goodreads profile.

This is by far, one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It is poetry in prose. Nayomi transported me to Sri Lanka, making me feel like I knew the sights and smells intimately. More than any other book before, I felt physically moved by her writing. Even thinking about this book now, a couple of months after reading it, I remember sunny beaches, rocking waves, the taste of curry and fish, the smell of cooking fires and smoke from bombs. I knew nothing of the history of Sri Lanka and I had no idea how recent all the upheaval was. I tend to gravitate towards what my mother would call “disturbing” material in books, and this book does deal with darker themes: suicide bombers, child soldiers, racism, war. But I walked away from the book with a sense of hope and a very strong memory of how incredibly beautiful the book is.

Swamplandia was wholly unique. While I wouldn’t call it fun, I would call it a little whimsical–whimsically gritty. The book chronicles the lives of the Bigtree clan, a family of alligator wrestlers out of the swamps of Florida. This is a coming of age novel, complete with awkward, sticky, body odor moments. Ava, with the death of her mother, is thrust into adulthood. She becomes the families matriarch with an older sister who is lost to the world of ghosts and magic, an older brother with daddy issues and no interest in the family business, and a father struck by grief and stubbornly set in his ways–not to mention a rare, red, baby alligator she is determined to see survive infancy. Swamplandia is a fascinating portrayal of a very different world, one I had a very hard time setting down.

Husband introduced me to the blog a while ago, and I fell in love with it right away. The book is just as good. It is a very quick, easy read. Though I should admit that this book’s appeal may be generational. My mother and father both liked it well enough, and chuckled out loud a time or two, but they didn’t LOVE it, or rather they didn’t understand why you would love it.

I love Rebecca Wells. I loved the The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sister Hood. I think I loved this one even more. If I didn’t absolutely loathe humidity, I would pick up and move to southern Louisiana. I want to name my kids with southern names like Bayla, Siddallee Ann, or Calla Lily Ponder. This is a simple, easy book about love and loss and life. Some of the best books are about nothing, because nothing is what all of us are living day-to-day. I am not saying our lives are inconsequential, but rather that it is all the inconsequential things in our lives that add up to a well-lived life. This books is an excellent example of that.

This is another incredibly poetic novel, beautifully written. When this book was passed to me, I prejudged it by the cover. I guess the heft of it just felt cheesy, but I was very wrong and I am so thankful I read it. Julia’s father disappears without a trace, so she sets out from her comfortable New York life, looking for him. She finds her way to a remote corner of Burma, her father’s homeland, where she is forced into drinking tea and told the life story of her father–a life before her and her mother, a life she knew nothing of.

I love books about strong women, and Gertrude Bell was all sorts of strong. She was just as influential as Lawrence of Arabia. She didn’t give a damn about what her role as a woman should be. She climbed mountains, braved blizzards, smoked like chimney, cursed like a sailor, traveled alone, rode horses and camels, shot guns…I could go on. This was a fascinating historical biography of someone I did not know anything about and about a time and place in history I don’t know nearly enough about. The middle east is such a sticky wicket, and seeing the politics of the region laid out made me realize that the consequences of the political decisions made decades ago are still rippling out today.

There is some debate as to whether this is a novel or a collection of short stories–I see it somewhere in the middle. With a very large cast of characters, it can be a little hard to keep everything straight, but this is a very lyrical book. I loved every minute of it, just as I have loved every minute of all of her other books (well all but one–Shadow Tag). Forgive me, it has been a while since I read this book, so I am having a hard time remembering the details, but I remember clearly how beautifully tangled the book was. Erdrich weaves her characters in and out of a tapestry incredibly thick and murky. It was complicated. The relationships were complicated. Nothing was sparkly or perfect, and that was the best part of the book.

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My New Year’s Resolution

I am not big resolution maker. I have dieted, tried to be a nicer person, made lists of yearly goals. But I haven’t made any serious resolutions in the past couple of years, or rather I haven’t been very serious about any of the resolutions I have made. This year is different–completely different, because not only did I make a resolution I am interested in keeping, but one I am preternaturally disposed to keeping.

My resolution is to read more. To be specific my resolution is to read this bookshelf:

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I know all about making goals–you know they should be reasonable, quantifiable…SMART. I don’t remember every letter of that anagram, but you know goals should be SMART. This goal is definitely SMART. Minus the fact that this resolution is completely unattainable, because that bookshelf holds 290 books. I once heard an author talk about how he spend a year reading one book a day, everyday. He must have done nothing else, or he was reading children’s books. The author was either Joe Queenan or Pat Conroy; I cannot remember.

Now my resolution would break down to 9 books a month–give or take. Now I know Husband supports all of my endeavors, but he might begin to feel a little neglected if all I did was read all the time. So instead of reading 290 books in 2015, I am going to try to read as many as I can. I have even made a couple of rules:

  1. No rereads. I love rereading books. Hence the two bookshelves in our house: one for all the books I own that I have not read and one for all the books that I love and continually reread. But I have a lot of books to get through and no time to dilly-dally.
  2. I cannot add to the bookshelf. UNLESS someone gives me a book, but I cannot buy any books or go to the library. Now there is one addendum to this and that is I still get to spend the two gift certificates for books that I got for Christmas and my birthday. The gift certificates are only good at bookstores after all.

As of today (1/28/2015) I have already read 12 books on the shelf, so as of today I am already behind, but considering I was completely ignoring that bookshelf before I made the resolution and now it is 12 books lighter I am going to call that a success.

Happy New Year (a month late)!

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May Reading Review

I have decided to go back to one of the older format of my yearly reading list. Currently it has a picture and a paragraph review of every book I have read, broken down by month. I have not been able to keep up with this due to some formatting issues. So I have decided instead to do a monthly post with the fancy pictures of what I have read that month and that lovely paragraph review, while the page will have a list the basic list of book and authors and each month will have a link to its respective review post. Make sense? I think this will make it a little easier for me to keep up with and it will give me an already formatted post that I get to do once a month.

Fantastic.

So without any fanfare here is my list for May. It is short and all of them were easy reads.

I forgot how much I loved Terry Pratchett’s writing. The story is fanciful and an easy read, but the writing is smart and snarky. This is the first book in his Discworld series and it shows Pratchett’s incredible imagination. He creates a magical world so incredible and complete it is no wonder that he wrote many more books based in the Discworld. He created such a rich tapestry that he must have put eons into creating it.

I am just going to review these three at once, considering they are a trilogy and neither two or three were disappointing like so many other trilogies. These are classic Mercedes Lackey. They are easy fun fantasy with magic and gryphons (surprising I know).  The characters are endearing and the plot interesting. I wouldn’t recommend running out to buy them (unless you are a die-hard Lackey fan) but if you ever stumble across them I would say give them a chance.

I checked this out of the library because I recently started a new project! I am ghost writing a memoir for a man who grew up under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. I needed to know more and unfortunately my local library didn’t have a lot of material. This was a picture book, with stripped down simplicity, for early middle-schoolers. But it gave me a basic (VERY basic) idea of the history and culture.

Now to be fair, I gave up on this one. I got about two chapters in a decided that I couldn’t do it. I have a very low tolerance for people being self-destructive out of a lack of willingness to communicate and boredom. The main character is self-righteous and bored out of her mind. She is unwilling to talk to her husband and sabotages their life in a million tiny decisions. Cheating is comprised of a million tiny decisions, all of which we have power over. No I will not text that person, or get coffee, or run into them in the hallway on purpose. This character does it all and I couldn’t watch the resulting train wreck.

I thought I had read these books before, but if I have I do not really remember this one at least. Anne McCaffrey is awesome if sometimes a little backwards from a feminist stand point. But since she is one of the leading women in the world of Fantasy we can cut her a little slack. There is a lot to this book–it is very dense and sometimes I have to spend a little too much concentration to keep everyone straight. These are done in the same vein as a lot of Mercedes Lackey books though the feel a little more grownup.

I saved the best for last. This is by far my favorite book that I read in May. I guarantee that I will be rereading this at some point. I love the southern world that Rebecca Wells paints. If you read the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and loved it then this is the next book on your reading list. Calla Lily is a magical young woman and the world she grows up in is just as magical with fireflies and a beautiful moon that she prays to and a river she practically lives in. This is a very feminine book just like the Sisterhood. It’s delicious!

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2013: Books In Review

I did a lot of reading last year, some of it was pretty wonderful, while some of it was pretty awful–but that is what I get as a book reviewer. It can be a very mixed bag. I have narrowed down the books that I read last year (70 in total) to my top ten favorites. For the most part I would recommend all of these books; some of them I would even be obnoxious about it. Sometimes I feel like I should at least strap my husband down until he reads some of these, but he is more of a technical reader: as in he loves to read about medical studies, new technologies, and boring things like economics and sociology. One can’t have it all, I suppose. I have divided the top ten into three categories: Throwbacks, Non-Fiction, and Fiction, so if you don’t see anything for you in the first couple of sections, feel free to scroll down.

Throw Back:

This is a set of four books called the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Particia C. Wrede. I think I first read these  books in middle school. They are very fast reads – I burned through all four of them in a week back in  October/November. They are just pure silliness and fun. There are annoying princesses and good princesses,  Dragons who are allergic to Wizards, and Wizards who are annoyingly persistent and evil. There are cats who act  just like cats and magical swords that do not act like swords at all. These are a great way to indulge your inner child,  especially since they are well written with wry humor.

Non-Fiction:

 This book was incredible. Persico distilled unimaginable amounts of information in to a comprehensive look at   Nuremberg trials. I was astounded as I read it trying to imagine how he brought all of this information together. I am drawn to this period in history–as many others are and this helped satiate my need for information. Persico gives us information on the war, on how the Trail came about, how the jail system worked, how the prisoners were treated. This is by far the best non-fiction book I have read in a long time. The writing is substantial. I don’t think I could ask for more.

 I am not sure I would recommend this book to everyone. It appealed to me because of the work that I do with  Adventist Hospice, though I do think I would have found it interesting even without working for Hospice. This  book walks us through the history of dying and how advances in medicine: hospitals, medicines, etc. changed  how we approach dying. I think this would be a relevant book for anyone with older relatives as well as those who work in nursing homes or hospitals. If you want more information here is the link to the review I did for the Portland Book Review.

Fiction!

Initially I thought I should put these next books in ascending order of awesomeness, but I couldn’t wrap my head around a hierarchy. Each of these books are incredible (at least to me). I would recommend them all, without reservation, to anyone. That is not to say that they won’t appeal to everyone, because I know everyone has different tastes, and I can be incredibly biased when it comes to what I read. Take the following 7 books for instance: all of them have female protagonists. I obviously have discriminating tastes. The first book is my favorite of all of them, but the rest are all equal in my estimation. Three of the books on this list are by Louise Erdrich, whose work I have been having a love affair with as these blog posts attest to: Damn Good Writing, Day 19.

 I couldn’t put this down. I felt like I was swimming deep under water, without needing to breath. The story  intertwines the lives of the Master Butcher Fideles, his wife Eva, their four sons, and a young acrobat woman who  has returned home with her lover who she passes off as her husband to gain respectability. Everything was so  beautiful, poignant, and simple. It is a story of ordinary lives, in an ordinary world. That’s where the beauty lies and  Erdrich knows this so well. Instead of writing towards large, world changing events, her writing conveys the power  in the small things in life. I read the book months ago and I am still not over it.

This is a story about a drum, which begins when Faye discovers the painted drum abandoned in an attic of an estate she in appraising. The drum calls to her, and against all of her professional sensibilities she steals it. We then bounce back and forth through time as we catch glimpses of the lives the drum has touched, changed, and in some instances, ruined.

I am having a hard time remembering the plot of this book, but I think that only adds to it oddly enough. This  book is so tangled; it is a jumble of lives, twisting together. It takes place up in North Dakota, on tribal lands. It  is about the struggle for a dying culture and disappearing land. It is a book of power and sadness. There is evil  and magic, as well as faith and painted drums. It is a book to be read late at night.

This so reminded me of Anne of Green Gables–it has a young girl as the protagonist and a very strong connection with nature for a start. I remember watching the Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe  as a kid–the old one put out by WonderWorks with the human sized beavers. One of the previews on the VHS was  for A Girl of the Limberlost. I finally got around to reading this book while I was on my honeymoon, and it was  perfect. It is a simple, sweet book where you easily fall in love with the characters and everything turns out  perfectly in the end. I recommend reading this book in the summer, on a warm summer afternoon. It won’t  take much time, but the time it takes will be well spent. Unless, of course, Anne of Green Gables is way to girly for you and then I would suggest not reading this book.

Set mainly on a beautiful island in the Indian Ocean, this tells the story of Meterling who falls in love with an older English gentleman who falls down dead during their first dance at the wedding reception. Meterling is left, pregnant, to bear the disgrace. The writing is simple and beautiful, and we automatically love Meterling who must endure her broken heart and continue to live, surrounded by family in her families compound. As Sweet as Honey is the perfect title for this book. Here is the link to the review I did for the Portland Book Review.

Set in North Wales during the last couple of months during World War II, this book tells the tale of a small town barmaid. How whole life is wrapped up in her little village, yet she longs for a larger world. I wasn’t so sure about this book when I first started reading it, but then before I knew it I was hooked. Esther comes of age in a time where soldiers regularly tramped through her town and vied for her affections, where local eyes pry into every aspect of life, and the POW camp just over the hill proves too interesting to resist.

There is so much to this book, I don’t know where to begin. It takes place in two worlds: Germany during World War II with a young woman named Anna, and years later in Minnesota with Anna’s daughter Trudy. It is a story of love and loss, and what lengths we can be driven to for that love. Anna sacrifices everything for her infant daughter in Germany, and at the end of the war when she meets a young American soldier she escapes the horror of her past to marry him and move to America. From that point on she refuses to talk about her past, but it continues to color the relationships that she has with her husband and her daughter. Trudy is left to puzzle out her own murky beginnings, searching fruitlessly against the wall of her mother’s silence. This book was dark and twisty in the exact way I like books to be dark and twisty. 

I hope everyone had a great reading year last year. Remember: the books we get to read in this lifetime are finite, so choose them wisely. I have started a new page for the books that I read in 2014, you can check that out here. If you had any books that knocked you off your feet, and made you wobbly at the knees last year, please feel free to share them. I am always on the prowl for my next great read. Good reading everyone!

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