Some of My Favorite Books

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I finished reading Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult the other day but like you, I've been a tad busy the past few days. So, tonight I decided to post about this wonderful book. 

I have read almost all of Picoult's novels and have loved them all. While I'm reading one of her books, I get sucked into the story and wonder how in the world she can write so eloquently and thoroughly on such diverse topics, but she always does.

Leaving Time's main themes are elephants and psychics. I won't spoil the storyline by divulging much more here other than to say that she handles these topics so well that I was really surprised at the way this novel ends but not in a bad way. It was believable and so well done.

Book Read:  Leaving Time
Author:  Jodi Picoult

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Benediction by Kent Haruf

I heard of the passing of author Kent Haruf on November 30 and went to the library to find one of his books I hadn't read. I found Benediction and finished it yesterday. This novel revolved around Dad Lewis who was dying of cancer in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. This book was doubly sad because of Mr. Haruf having just died.

Reading parts of this book made me feel like I was reliving when my own dad died several years ago. This is never an easy time and the author brought the act of dying to life, from all perspectives. 

Kent Haruf wrote Plainsong, Eventide, and several other books. If you haven't had the pleasure, pick one up and enjoy. I heard Mr. Haruf speak in Denver at a book signing years ago and he had to be one of the kindest and most gentle people I have ever come across. This was true in person and in his writing.

Book Read:  Benediction
Author:  Kent Haruf

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Shots Fired by C.J. Box

I've been reading C.J. Box's novels about a Wyoming game warden named Joe Pickett for years, but I have to say I really enjoyed Shots Fired, a collection of short stories. The title story is the last story in the book, and even though I liked it, I liked several other stories even better.

A couple that really stood out were The End of Jim and Ezra and Pronghorns of the Third Reich. Box introduced each short story at the beginning of the book, and I made a point of reading each introduction before reading the story. 

To introduce "Jim and Ezra" the author said that a bookseller encouraged him to write a historical novel based on these two characters. I'd read it!

For Pronghorns of the Third Reich, Box used an actual photograph as inspiration for the story, which is included at the end of the short story. But as he says, no looking ahead at the photo. Very cool!

C.J. Box generally writes about Wyoming, but I've read another of his standalone novels Three Weeks to Say Goodbye that was just as good. It was set mostly in Denver. Since I lived there most of my adult life, it's always fun to read about familiar locales.

Do you like reading all of an authors' books? I have lots to catch up on of the Joe Pickett novels!

Book Read:  Shots Fired
Author:  C.J. Box

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe

Okay, this was the first book by Jonathan Coe that I've read, and I'm a fan! 

This novel is set in 1958 mostly in Belgium where the World Fair (the Expo) was held, but also in England where Thomas Foley, the main character of this funny, tongue-in-cheek in many places book lived.

One thing that sold me on Expo 58 was the recommendation by Nick Hornby. He's a great writer and when he said "The best English novelist of his generation" about Coe, I figured I couldn't go wrong.

Expo 58 almost felt like a fairy tale at times in the telling of this story of a man (Foley) who was recruited to oversee a bar erected at the Expo for the British government. 

The subtle subplots (the most understated spy drama I've ever seen!) all come together at the end and though I hadn't exactly figured them out, they all made perfect sense.

Read it. Bet you'll love it, too.

Book Read:  Expo 58
Author:  Jonathan Coe

Friday, November 14, 2014

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

What a great book! I just finished We Are Water by Wally Lamb and am so sad that it ended. I mean, I know.  A book has to end, but dang, this novel was just so good. I caught myself this past week going and getting it from my nightstand and reading it for 5 or 10 minutes. I loved it! Just like all of his other books.

This book spanned time but kept the train on track so well. I don't need to go into it, I don't think. If you love good fiction that reads like real life, pick up We Are Water. 

That is all.

Book Read:  We Are Water
Author:  Wally Lamb

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Arsonist by Sue Miller

Well, I really enjoyed reading The Arsonist by Sue Miller but was a tad put off by the ending. For one thing, I couldn't quite get around to finishing it for days. I got really sleep several evenings and had to go to sleep instead of finishing the last 50 pages, so I felt a little underwhelmed when I finally did finish this novel.

Set in the 1980s, The Arsonist dealt with a small town in New Hampshire where lots of summer residents came to live among the regular townsfolk. I felt like I knew who might be the arsonist about half way through the book, but nope, that person was never mentioned as a likely culprit. At all. Hmmm. 

I hate to give away who I thought it was, but if anyone has an opinion, I'd love to hear it! And I'm open to revealing it in the comments. 

Have you read this book? What did you think? I was let down, I guess, in several ways with the way the story ended.

Book Read:  The Arsonist
Author:  Sue Miller

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I finished reading Catherine Ryan Hyde's novel When I Found You today. this was an interesting book, alternating between Nathan McCann and Nat Bates as the narrators. McCann finds a baby (who is later named for him, Nat) in the woods and wants to be part of the boy's life. And he does, in some surprising ways.

I enjoyed this book and it was the first I'd read by this author. I had listened to the audio book of her novel Pay It Forward, which was later made into a movie. 

Book Read:  When I Found You
Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I woke up this morning with only about 30 pages left to read in All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr so I made a pot of coffee and took a cup back to bed and finished this wonderful novel.

This novel is set in Europe during World War II and alternates mostly between two characters:  Werner Pfennig, an orphaned German boy in his teens who's a wizard at radios and electronics and Marie-Laure, a blind French girl of about the same age who lives with her father in Paris then in Saint-Malo with her great uncle.

The story is so rich and detailed and lovely even though it's basically about a horrible time in history. Please read it. You're in for a treat.

Book Read:  All the Light We Cannot See
Author:  Anthony Doerr

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott

Well, with The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott I did something a little different. I listened to the audio book of this historical fiction book instead of reading the physical book. This was an excellent book for this purpose because the reader really brought this book to life. She even made the male voices distinctive and believable. 

When I had to wear my eye patch with the shingles, it really messed with my up close tasks like reading so I was glad I downloaded this audio book. Do you ever listen to audio books or do you read a physical book or read on a tablet or ereader?

Set in the 1830s in Lowell and Boston, Massachusetts, The Daring Ladies of Lowell told the story of several of the female textile mill workers and the wealthy mill owner. A murder and death from the poor working conditions in the mills rounded out this story. 

The Christian Science Monitor said that The Daring Ladies of Lowell "Offers  up a compelling slice of both feminist and Industrial Age history."

Book Read:  The Daring Ladies of Lowell
Author:  Kate Alcott

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Torch by Cheryl Strayed

I just reread Torch, Cheryl Strayed's first novel. I had read this book at some point since it was published in 2005 and didn't realize it till I was about one-third of the way into it. I mean, parts sounded familiar but I'm glad I kept reading it. Like her memoir Wild, this novel is well written and draws you into the story of a step family, a mom and her two kids and their stepdad who have to face adversity.

This book is somewhat autobiographical because Cheryl Strayed lost her mother when Strayed was a young adult like the character of Claire in Torch. She says though that that's where the similarities end. She invented the characters and what happens to them.

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie of Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail that comes out later this year. Have you read Wild or Torch?

Book Read:  Torch
Author:  Cheryl Strayed

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Sign Painter by Davis Bunn

I read The Sign Painter by Davis Bunn for the story, which was fairly intriguing. This book was a little "churchy" for me, but not over the top. I enjoyed this story of a homeless woman and her child who landed in a suburb of Orlando looking for work and possibly as a place to put down roots.

As the story progressed, it unfolded to be a suspenseful look at choices people make in life and those consequences.

Book Read:  The Sign Painter
Author:  Davis Bunn

Saturday, September 13, 2014

One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

If you've seen the movie P.S. I Love You starring Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler, you may have heard of Cecelia Ahern. I had seen the movie but didn't know that Cecelia Ahern wrote the book the movie was based on. 

One Hundred Names was a really good, sweet little story by this author. I'm not sure I'll read her other books, but I might.

Here's a short article I wrote about One Hundred Names.

Book Read:  One Hundred Names
Author:  Cecelia Ahern

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

I stayed up late last night to finish reading Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. This was one satisfying read! If you've read it, I'd love to hear what you thought about it. 

This novel was shorter (though not short at 436 pages) than many of the tomes he's written and it just seemed softer or more gentle. Not sure how to describe it, but in all, it was less gory but just as entertaining to me than many of his previous books.

I liked Bill Hodges right away, even when he was the fat retired detective sitting around watching bad TV all day. I grew to like him even more. And the freaky pair of Brady and his mom made this book a voyeur's delight!

Book Read:  Mr. Mercedes
Author:  Stephen King

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Unwitting by Ellen Feldman

I finished reading The Unwitting night before last, and though I liked this book, I was glad when I was done with it. The myriad inner thoughts grew a tad tiresome but I found the story engaging and loved watching it unfold.

Set in the 1940s through the 1960s, The Unwitting follows the courtship and marriage of Nell and Charlie and their lives as writers and publishers in New York City and beyond. Part mystery, part love story, part spy novel, The Unwitting was a history lesson for me as well as a peek at lives as foreign to me as can be.

Book Read:  The Unwitting
Author:  Ellen Feldman

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Elsewhere by Richard Russo

I loved, loved, loved this book! I started reading Elsewhere by Richard Russo last week, while, well, in the bathroom. I just read a few pages but was hooked. I wanted to read another book first though (and I did--The Painter by Peter Heller), but I couldn't wait to get back to Elsewhere.

This is a memoir written by the novelist Richard Russo, not so much about himself, but about his life with his mother. And what a mother she was. This guy has to be one of the most patient people on the planet. He catered to this woman her entire life, going way above and beyond the call of duty for any son (or daughter).

I don't like to give away too much in my blog posts but do recommend you read this one. It was fascinating to see how this mother-son relationship kept up the pace for what must have been going on 60 or more years till her death. 

This book makes me want to grab a stack of Russo's novels and read them all.

Book Read:  Elsewhere
Author:  Richard Russo

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Painter by Peter Heller

I stayed up really late last night and finished the novel The Painter by Peter Heller. Wow, I thought The Dog Stars was good, but I think I liked this one even more.

Set in Colorado and New Mexico, this book is lushly descriptive and beautiful. The main character Jim Stegner, a painter and fisherman, is as flawed as can be and so easy to relate to and like. 

I just loved this book, wondering what the heck was going to happen next and if the painter would come out the other side.

Book Read:  The Painter
Author:  Peter Heller

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

This book was amazing! I love Anna Quindlen's writing and have read all of her novels now after reading this one. I think this is my favorite. 

This novel starts out innocent enough with a family of five:  Mary Beth and Glen Latham and their three children, Ruby, Alex, and Max. And the dog Ginger. They just go about living their lives in a small New England town.

With a slow build up and some subtle undertones, the book explodes halfway through with a shocker than I sure didn't see coming. I knew something had to happen but hadn't guessed this. More details are revealed in the last half of the book that make it such a great read.

If you like literary fiction with a great story, I betcha you'll love Every Last One.

Book Read:  Every Last One
Author:  Anna Quindlen

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I finished reading Sue Monk Kidd's latest novel The Invention of Wings last night. I really loved this book, a historical fiction novel based on two real women, Sarah and Angelina Grimke. The Grimke women were sisters born in Charleston in the early part of the 1800s. Their family had slaves but the girls were opposed to slavery and as adults were some of the first vocal opponents of owning slaves.

Much of the book was made up but Kidd used historical records, letters, and documents that she interspersed in the novel to make it come to life. If you love a good story that you can research later and read more about, don't miss The Invention of Wings.

To read more about these women who really were rebels especially in the times in which they lived, visit the National Women's History Museum website.

Book Read:  The Invention of Wings
Author:  Sue Monk Kidd

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

Well, I have mixed feelings about The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. I really enjoyed this period book set in the mid 1920s. I think the author did a good job of researching the era and brought to life the period. 

The story was good -- Rose, a woman who was an orphan under some weird circumstances -- goes to secretarial school and becomes a typist for the New York police department. Another typist joins the force and Odalie brings with her another world for Rose.

It was the ending that really made me go "huh?" I don't like to give away endings or even too much about a book but this is worth a read. I'd be curious what you think about it. The whole thing. But especially the ending. 

Author:  Suzanne Rindell
Book:  The Other Typist

Monday, July 7, 2014

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

I started reading another book after I finished Big Brother by Lionel Shriver, but I couldn't finish it. So I started reading Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. Much better!

I liked this book but didn't totally love it. The writing was good, the story was good, but the way it flip flopped back and forth in a month or so time frame made it a tad hard to follow for me for some reason. This novel is based on the true story of a murder that happened near San Francisco in 1876. 

One thing I really found interesting was the use of the term "below job" for you know what. Very interesting. It is below, so it makes sense, I guess!

Author:  Emma Donoghue
Book Read:  Frog Music

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

Wow, Big Brother by Lionel Shriver is a great book. Ms. Shriver took a chapter from her own life--the loss of her older "big" brother from complications of being obese and told a fictional account that, true to her form, was surprising and rang so true. 

In real life, Shriver's older brother lived life large, in all ways, not just his clothing size. In the book this big brother does the same. I read an interview Shriver gave that said she wanted to honor him and help a character in a book lose the weight she was unable to help her brother do.

She tackles this big subject with wit and honesty. I laughed out loud when reading the scene where the sister takes responsibility for cleaning up the overflowing toilet and collects her brother's turds like Easter eggs. It's hilarious and gross all at once.

For more on this book, check out my Bubblews post.

Read it. You'll love it.

Author:  Lionel Shriver
Book Read:  Big Brother

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Okay, every once in awhile I read a book that I really love. I hadn't done that in quite awhile, but Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen did the trick. I love this book!

I wrote about this novel on Squidoo so will let you go there to get a synopsis if you like. 

If you've read other books by Quindlen and liked them, you won't be disappointed. She's a terrific writer and storyteller.

Book Read:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs
Author:  Anna Quindlen

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

I finished reading this book on the flight home from my vacation so had almost a week of not reading it, which made the ending more anticlimactic than it should have been. 

I liked this book a lot, much more than Laura Lippman's other more recent books I've read. I think the last one I read that I liked this much was What the Dead Know.

If you like suspenseful well-written novels, check out After I'm Gone.

Book Read:  After I'm Gone
Author:  Laura Lippman

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Neighbors Are Watching by Debra Ginsberg

Okay, I rarely do this but I read two books in a row by the same author. After I finished reading Waiting:  The True Confessions of a Waitress, I picked up The Neighbors Are Watching, both by Debra Ginsberg. 

I've read her older novels, and I really liked them. This one was her best, I think. Sort of mystery, sort of crime, all gossip!

I really like the characters, or maybe I should say, I liked disliking some of the characters in this novel. Most had plenty of crud gumming up their works, which always makes for a good read!

Book Read:  The Neighbors Are Watching
Author:  Debra Ginsberg

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg

I really enjoyed Waiting:  The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg. As a writer and editor, she made her living / supplemented her income waiting tables for 20 years. That's a long time in that industry!

Ginsberg touches on all the big waitressing questions:  

  • Do wait staff spit in food?
  • Does anyone wait tables as a career?
  • Are you really getting decaf coffee when you ask for it? 

Read the book to find out!

Book Read:  Waiting:  The True Confessions of a Waitress
Author:  Debra Ginsberg

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

I stayed up late last night and finished reading How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman. At first, I started this book then went on to another. I gave it another try though, and I'm glad I did. This book is suspenseful and intriguing in how it's written.

I loved the last part (after the big reveal) best. 

Book Read:  How to Be a Good Wife
Author:  Emma Chapman

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Oh boy! I did not want this book to end. I loved Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. 

You've probably heard of this book and if you've read it, you know what I mean. If you haven't heard of it or read it, do! The hype is well deserved.

This book was inspired by the real struggles of orphans who did ride on trains from the East coast to the Midwest. The novel is set in both present day with Molly, a troubled teen in Maine and in 1929 onward with the story of Vivian. Vivian's story is my favorite part.

Here are some books and a DVD of the real orphan trains that took orphaned and abandoned children from east to west in the U.S. from 1854 to 1929.

Book Read:  Orphan Train
Author:  Christina Baker Kline

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Two Sisters by Mary Hogan

I just finished reading Two Sisters by Mary Hogan. This was her first adult novel, but this author has written several young adult novels. 

I liked this book, but didn't love it and here's why. The writing was good, the story was good, but a few of the characters, hell, most of the characters, were mean and selfish, which makes it a hard book to love. 

I could relate to the main character, Muriel, who was one of the titled two sisters. She is a large girl born into a family of dysfunctional parents and siblings. She's basically an outsider who never felt like she fit in. This carried over to her adult life.

I'd say pick up this book. Who cares that in places it was so difficult to read? The end was not sappy but satisfying. 

Let me know what you think. 

Book Read:  Two Sisters

Author:  Mary Hogan


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