Some of My Favorite Books

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

I read the third installment in the Bridget Jones books and loved this one! I read the first book, Bridget Jones's Diary. Then I watched the movie and the second one, The Edge of Reason, but I didn't read that one.

I'm glad I read this. It was sad, so sad. I won't give away anything here to spoil it for you, but I loved this book. Helen Fielding is such a funny writer once you get past her random-thoughts way of writing.

Need a page turner that goes fairly quickly? I'd give Mad About the Boy two big ol' thumbs up, nits be damned!

Book Read:  Bridget Jones:  Mad About the Boy
Author:  Helen Fielding

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

The Woman Upstairs is the first book by Claire Messud that I've read, and I was pleasantly surprised. 

It was witty, engaging, and pitiful all in one! The main character Nora Eldridge is relatable and sympathetic. The story is original and compelling. I'd recommend this novel and can't wait to read her others.

Book Read:  The Woman Upstairs
Author:  Claire Messud

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers by Sinclair McKay

I loved this book! The Secret Lives of Codebreakers:  The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay is full of details about the daily lives of the British men and women who worked hard at code breaking but could tell no one. Ever.

Like spies in wartime, these regular people were recruited for special skills they had, like mathematics or language or puzzle and problem solving. They couldn't tell their families or friends what they were doing and mostly were told to say they worked for the government as secretaries or clerks of some kind. 

They helped win World War II by cracking codes that helped the Allies learn where the enemy would be in advance, for example. After the war, these same people couldn't include any of their experience or skills obtained at Bletchley Park on their resumes or job applications so many went back to mundane jobs or changed fields entirely.

If you know a history buff, The Secret Lives of Codebreakers would be a fabulous Christmas present!

I also watched The Bletchley Circle about four women who cracked Nazi codes during World War II and used these skills to track a killer years later. Fascinating stuff!

Book Read:  The Secret Lives of Codebreakers:  The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park
Author:  Sinclair McKay

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (The Nanny Diaries) was surprisingly good! The young intern who finagles an internship through a friend's connections is assigned to the White House and ends up in an affair with the big guy. Yes, the President. 

The ensuing problems her poor choices create take up much of the book, and it's like a train wreck. You can't help but look.

Book Read:  The First Affair
Author:  Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Monday, December 2, 2013

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

I took my dear, sweet time reading What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell, but this book lends itself to picking it up when you have a few minutes or half an hour. It's nonfiction, of course, like the rest of his books.

You might know Malcolm Gladwell's name from his other books:  The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. 

This book was similar in writing style, but this is a compilation of his stories previously published in The New Yorker. 

I enjoyed each story as I read it, but one stands out to me now after having finished this book last week and having read some of these stories a month or so ago. One story in particular is memorable.  Million-Dollar Murray:  Why Problems Like Homelessness May Be Easier to Solve Than to Manage deals with why some homeless people revert back to living on the streets after being given a job and having responsibility for a time. (One man, for instance, needed the discipline of checking in with someone to stay on track. Simple as that.)

In each story, Gladwell walks you through the logic of where he ends up in an entertaining way. I really enjoyed this book and think it would make a thoughtful Christmas present for someone on your list who loves to read thought-provoking nonfiction.

Book Read:  What the Dog Saw
Author:  Malcolm Gladwell

Thursday, November 21, 2013

July, July by Tim O'Brien

What a great gossipy book! July, July is the first book I'd read of Tim O'Brien's. 

If you didn't know better you would think this was written by a woman! It's full of feelings and thoughts and gossip about a group of college friends who graduated together in 1969.

I liked how this book alternated between a July when one of them was severely injured in VietNam and the July thirty years later when they met for a reunion. The characters are all likable and annoying and real.

Book Read:  July, July
Author:  Tim O'Brien

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel The Signature of All Things? No? Well, lucky you. You have it to look forward to!

This epic tale of Alma Whittaker, moss curator, is mostly set in the 1800s and follows Alma and her parents before her through their extraordinary lives.

Though this novel is nearly 500 pages long, I didn't want it to end. 

Book Read:  The Signature of All Things
Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

This seals the deal:  I love Kate Atkinson's books. 

This book meandered between 1975 and the present, unveiling layers of the story with each installment. I just loved the novel. 

If you like a good mystery that reveals itself bit by bit letting you in on just enough to make some good guesses on your own, you'll love Started Early, Took My Dog. This is the fourth of her books featuring Jackson Brodie but the first I read (maybe I read one other but don't remember the character). Anyway, I loved this book!

Book Read:  Started Early, Took My Dog
Author:  Kate Atkinson

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents and Gone

I have been slacking off posting about the books I've read. I am beginning to wonder if anyone reads this blog. Anyway, I read two books recently. Here they are:

A Field Guilde to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer is a funny, smart-alecky, touching book that really was like reading about a friend and the troubles they've seen. Well written with wit and compassion and absolutely no sap. Loved it! 

Gone by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge was equally as good. I'm not sure if I've read any of Ledwidge's other books (let's face it, he wrote it, right?) but I think I will. I liked this NYC detective who was in witness protection hiding out with his large brood in Northern California. 

Book Read:  A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents and Gone
Author:  Liza Palmer
Book Read:  Gone
Author:  James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

I read this book by chance. It's by an author I'd never read or heard of, but I'm glad I gave it a chance.  

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli was excellent! The Rand family are theives and con artists and they're all named after breeds of dogs. There's Terry (Terrier) and Collie, brothers. Collie's in prison for a murder spree he committed and is due to be executed within days. Terry finally comes home after running away from his notorious family five years earlier. 

Their father, Pinsch, mother (not named for a dog), sister Dale, and uncles Mal and Grey (Malamute and Greyhound) live together in the family home. Terry's sudden arrival back home brings things to a head.

I liked the in-depth character development and the surprise ending was satisfying. It's not an action-packed book, but that's okay with me. And I see that the sequel to The Last Kind Words is out:  The Last Whisper in the Dark.

Book Read:  The Last Kind Words
Author:  Tom Piccirilli

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson recently and found it puzzling and wonderful! This novel deals with the life (lives) of Ursula Todd. I was puzzled throughout by the many chances the author gives Ursula to live. In the beginning, Ursula dies in childbirth. Her next life allows her to live a bit longer, and then longer still. Each previous life is in the back of poor Ursula's mind, bits here and there, as if she has been there before because of course, she has. 

This review on Amazon sums up the Atkinson's writing in Life After Life so well:

"Yes, many themes do permeate the story of Ursula Todd - everything from Plato's "Everything changes and nothing remains still," Buddhist principles of fate and reincarnation, Nietzsche's "amor fati" (Love of Fate), to Jungian explanations of "déjà vu," "synchronicity" and "collective unconsciousness," and that's just to name a few - but what really makes this novel stand out, what really makes it so amazing is how lightly, even unassumingly, and yet so impeccably Kate Atkinson treats such sophisticated and intellectual subject matter."

If you've read any of Kate Atkinson's novels you know what a stellar writer she is. If not, you're in for a treat!

Book Read:  Life After Life

Author:  Kate Atkinson

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

Okay, if you love television and a good story, I highly recommend The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner. Ruth Saunders is a 23-year-old woman who was injured (and disfigured) as a child in a car accident that killed her parents. She was raised by her grandmother and when Ruth decides to move to California to try her hand at writing for television, the two of them begin new lives. 

The story is believable and a fun read. I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood that we are privy to. I liked how realistic the story seemed, no big sugar coating here.

Book Read:  The Next Best Thing
Author:  Jennifer Weiner

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking and have to say that this was a hard book to get through. Didion's writing was hard to read, hard to understand, and easy and relatable, in turns.

Joan Didion's husband of 40 years died and then she tried to wish and think him back alive. This book is her journey through grief and mourning (the differences of which she explains briefly but very well).

I think anyone who has lost someone close to them can relate to her writing:  the memories that come from a trigger of seeing or hearing something you shared, the pain that is ever present. 

Book Read:  The Year of Magical Thinking
Author:  Joan Didion

Monday, September 9, 2013

Breaking Point by C.J. Box

I used to read every one of C.J. Box's book featuring Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett, but over the past few years, I sort of lost track of these novels. I picked up his 2013 novel Breaking Point recently and know that I need to go back and read the ones I've missed. These books just keep getting better and better!

In this thriller, Joe Pickett is conflicted because of a man who he has hunted with and who is the father of his daughter's best friend has been accused of murdering two EPA agents. The twisted plot reveals itself after several more deaths atop a mountain. The suspense and writing are good making Breaking Point a book I'd whole-heartedly recommend.

Have you read any of C.J. Box's novels?

Book Read:  Breaking Point
Author:  C.J. Box

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

I was so happy with the ending of this book! I enjoyed reading it but toward the end, I have to say, I had my doubts. Not one to give away spoilers, I won't say a word but if you like good chick lit, you'll like this one.

One of my favorite parts (well, it's minor but it made me smile and say, "Yes, I did that!) is when one of the characters borrows her mother's black cashmere sweater but it has a tiny hole in it. She gets a Sharpie and writes on herself where the hole is so it won't show. We used to do this before having holes in our jeans was cool. 

I'd only other novel of theirs I'd read was The Nanny Diaries, which was great. This one was just as good. And I found out that they have several other novels just waiting for me to read. Yay! 

Book Read:  Dedication
Author:  Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

Well, I finished reading The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout late last night, and unexpectedly was sad to see it end. When I first started reading this novel, I considered setting it aside and not reading it at all.

I'm glad I stuck with it. 

The Burgess boys are Jim Burgess, a famous, successful corporate lawyer, and his younger brother Bob, also a lawyer but a Legal Aid attorney. They have a sister Susan, whose son gets into some trouble, in the town in Maine where the Burgess family grew up. The story unfolds with enough conflict centering around immigration, racial tension, marriage, guilt, and so on to keep it interesting. 

And unfold, it does. I liked the book more and more as I read it. Secrets are revealed that change people and it was very well written with realistic story elements that make a good book great for me.

Have you read The Burgess Boys or any of Strout's other books? She also wrote Olive Kitteridge, which she won the Pulitzer Prize for.

Book Read:  The Burgess Boys
Author:  Elizabeth Strout

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Line of Fire by Stephen White

I finished Line of Fire by Stephen White this morning while waiting at an appointment. I was glad to finish it because frankly I was ready to be done with it. I did want to know how it ended and the end of the book moved along at a good clip, making it more pleasurable to read then the bulk of the tome.

This book is billed as a psychological thriller but to me it was a tad tedious in places. White is a psychologist and it shows. He used ten dollar words when a nickel word would do. It's reads like he's showing off, to me.

I hadn't read any of the previous Dr. Alan Gregory books that White's written and I'm glad. From other reviews on Amazon, it sounds like this book was a stinker. The characters of Alan and Sam Purdy acted out of character and the storyline faltered. I agree that the two did some dumb things and the circumstances were sort of ridiculous. I do believe this will be the last White novel I read. I may have read another one years ago but obviously since I don't really remember, it wasn't memorable.

Do you like Stephen White's books?

Book Read:  Line of Fire
Author:  Stephen White

Monday, August 12, 2013

The View From Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman

I love Elinor Lipman's books, and this just might be her best! I finished reading The View from Penthouse B last night and was so sad to see it end. 

The premise follows:  Gwen-Laura is the middle sister of three girls. She moves in to Penthouse B after her husband dies suddenly. Her older sister Margot owns the penthouse but nothing else, having lost her money in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. 

Margot's ex-husband is a doctor who took liberties with his OB/GYN patients in a way that I don't want to spoil for you. Their younger sister Betsy is married with children. A roommate, a young man named Anthony, moves in to help with expenses and the story just keeps getting better.

Read it! I loved this book so much and can't imagine anyone not loving it, too.

Book Read:  The View from Penthouse B
Author:  Elinor Lipman

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Last night I stayed up way too late to finish reading NYPD Red, but if you've read his books you know how short 50 pages or so of his novels are.

It seems like this was just one of James Patterson's many books of the week. Not really, of course, but doesn't it seem like he churns them out awfully fast? I know he had help with this one as he does with many of his later books. And I wonder what exactly each writer does. 

I mean, to put Patterson's name on the book has to guarantee mega sales. So does he think up an idea and the other writer actually write it? Does anyone know?

No matter, I liked NYPD Red. It had the right mix of characters. Sometimes there are so many I just can't keep them straight. The story was somewhat believable even!

Do you like to read James Patterson's books? 

Book Read:  NYPD Red

Author:  James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

Have you read The Little Giant of Aberdeen County? If not, oh yeah, it's a good read!

Truly Plaice is a not really a giant, but a large, sturdy girl then an even larger, sturdier woman. Her life is made more difficult by having a mother who died in childbirth (giving birth to the giant baby, herself) and having an older sister who is petite and beautiful. 

The circumstances Truly finds herself in seem to be taken with a grain of salt, all through her life till she finally seems to come alive and makes some radical decisions. And she follows through on them.

I've read other books about giants (The Giant's House: A Romance and The Girl Giant: A Novel) and they're just as good as The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. I'd recommend them all.

Book Read:  The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
Author:  Tiffany Baker

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

She Left Me the Gun by Emma Brockes

She Left Me the Gun:  My Mother's Life Before Me by Emma Brockes is a daughter's memoir of her mother. The daughter, Emma Brockes, wrote about her late mother, Paula's life to understand it. 

Paula (Pauline Dulcie Brockes) grew up in South Africa and moved to London in her late twenties to escape her life. She reinvented herself, married later than most and had a child in her forties. Emma, her daughter, was told snippets of her mother's life but never the whole story.

After her mother died from cancer, Emma decided to find out for herself what her mother wasn't able to tell her. Emma first did some research online then visited South Africa twice and met with Paula's many siblings to piece together the mystery of her mother's upbringing. 

This is a shocking story that has to be true. It's too strange to be fiction.

Book Read:  She Left Me The Gun:  My Mother's Life Before Me
Author:  Emma Brockes


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