Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Orhan's Inheritance
After two friends raved about this book (Hi Barb and Lyndsay!), I thought I should probably hurry up and read it. When Kemal dies, his grandson Orhan discovers that although he has inherited the business, his grandson left his house to a completely unknown woman. Orhan finds himself faced with the dilemma of flying halfway across the world to visit this woman in a nursing home for Armenian elderly. The story flashes between the present, told by Orhan and Seda and Seda's past, as Seda slowly unravels the story of why, exactly, Kemal left her the house. This story gripped me. The fiction part was beautifully interwoven with WWI history and its impact on the country of Turkey--something I knew very little about until now. There is a lot of forgiveness and redemption in this story, along with the understanding that there's always so much more to a situation than what immediately appears.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant
Another past and present novel. This switches back and forth between Vivian Schuyler and her disgraced, never to be seen again aunt Violet Grant. In the early 1900s, Violet moved to Europe to study science, disgraced by her parents after going to school and marrying her professor. Meanwhile in the 1960s, her button pushing niece Vivian receives a mysterious package--Violet's suitcase, which was lost at the onset of WWI. Vivian sets out to find what happened to her aunt, discovering along the way that they're connected by much more than just genetics. I loved the voices in the story, although Vivian could be a bit much sometimes. Violet's story was incredibly endearing.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Back to school means... I'm way behind on reading.

All My Puny Sorrows
As Barb said two weeks ago when discussing this book, it is not an easy or uplifting read, but it is still enjoyable. Yolandi and Elfrieda are sisters. Raised together in a strict Mennonite community, neither of them truly fit in--especially Elfrieda (Elf). Shunned for being a musical prodigy in a community that doesn't believe in music, Elf rebelled in every way she could while also fighting crippling depression. As adults, Elf and Yoli both have their demons. Elf wants to die and Yoli struggles with whether or not she should help her sister die or watch her continue to make failed suicide attempts. Truly, this book opened up a lot of thoughts within me. I believe that terminally ill people should have the right to choose to die, and I believe that depression is an illness as much as ALS, but bridging the gap to whether or not chronically depressed people should have the right to die was not something I could wrap my brain around, no matter how much I thought about it. On top of this, the characters in this book are truly relatable. Human. Flawed. Could be anyone. I loved it.

The Hand That Feeds You: A Novel
A psychological thriller one [mostly] right. So rare these days! There were parts of this that were predictable, but it hooked me in immediately. I had to cut myself off of reading Monday night, otherwise I knew I would be up all night. Morgan is a newly engaged psychologist. Her fiancee Bennett is not the most attractive, does not like her dogs, but there is just something about him. Until one day, Morgan comes home and finds her dogs covered in blood and Bennett dead in the bedroom. Soon after, she discovers that she wasn't Bennett's only fiance oh and also, his name wasn't really Bennett. As Morgan looks further into his life, she begins to follow a bloody trail leading back to all the women with whom he was involved, leaving her to wonder if he really died in her apartment that day. There were some minor issues with the ending, but overall, I enjoyed this book.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

Back to work and busy busy, but I managed to squeeze this in before Wednesday ended!

Three Graves Full
Jason Getty has a secret. There is a body buried in his backyard, and he's responsible. Over the course of a year, he's learned to live with this, but after a landscaping crew discovers one body in his front yard and police unearth another, Jason is forced to live again with the fear of discovery. As Jason tries to stay one step ahead of the police, he delves into the past to explain how he became a haunted man. This was engaging. I love a good mystery type novel that I can just lose myself in.

Oxygen: A Novel
This was very much a Jodi Picoult type book, but it was what I needed to enjoy the last little bit of summer. Marie is an anesthesiologist who is enjoying her career. She loves her work because she gets to be with patients at their most vulnerable, but when something goes wrong during a surgery and a child dies, Marie faces losing it all through a malpractice suit. In the midst of this, Marie has to face that her aging father needs help and with forced time off from work, she is able to handle that issue--plus others that crop up as the trial progresses. While this book was easy to follow and the plot twist was identifiable very early on, it was still a good summer read.

Palisades Park
Palisades Amusement Park is the place to be in the early 1900s in New Jersey. Diving girls, amusement park food, a saltwater swimming pool, one could spend every day at Palisades and never be bored. At least, that's how it is for Toni who grew up with her parents running a french fry stand in the park, surrounded by her dreams of someday becoming a high diver. In the midst of this, times goes on, the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor loom, casting a shadow on the park. I loved this book. The story of Toni and her family was engaging, along with the background of the amusement park. Definitely a well done period piece.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

I feel like I've been striking out a lot with books lately, but I did read two that I thoroughly enjoyed this week.

Days of Awe: A novel
In one year, Isabel goes from a happily married mom with a best friend who shares her days to a soon-to-be divorced, hated by her daughter mom whose best friend is dead. Isabel struggles in this time to figure out who she is and who she wants to be and what follows is a journey between the past Isabel and the new Isabel. I was caught up with Isabel's story because I could relate to it in many ways, though my own life is fortunately not as filled with drama.

Make Your Home Among Strangers: A Novel
This book was such a strong, enjoyable read. Lizet is a first-generation college student struggling to fit in as a minority at a prestigious New York university. Lizet's first semester is fraught with stress, struggles with grades and struggles to bridge the gaps left between her new education and her obviously lacking high school education. In the midst of this, her family in Miami becomes entangled with the life of Ariel Hernandez, a Cuban refugee whose mother died on the raft to America and who is now the middle of a media circus and legal battle (this portion obviously based on Elian Gonzalez). Isabel struggles to find her footing in a new world, while still being there for her family back home. Isabel was absolutely the type of character you root for, in the midst of not being perfect.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

It's still Wednesday! Just barely, but I really wanted to finish a book first.

Speak: A Novel
This book was interesting. Narrated by a Puritan girl, almost a child, traveling to the New World with her husband, a mathematician in the early 1900s, a computer science professor in the 60s, a young girl in the almost present and a computer software programmer in the current time, this book tells the story of technology gone awry and the voices the bridge the gap between. Stephen, the computer software guru, creates bots that act as humans, that have ruined a generation of children. As he sits in prison, contemplating life and what he did, the voices that make up the bots fill in the past. This was a complex story that hinted at a dystopian future without being overly dramatic about it. Some of the skips made it hard follow, but the story was real and good.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel
I don't really know how I feel about this book, except that I feel a lot about this book. This book begins with Lars and his wife Cynthia and follows a path that begins with Cynthia abandoning her newborn daughter, Eva, and running off with a sommelier. From there, it follows that each chapter discusses a different character and a different dish. The people are all related, of course, but in different ways. I will admit that I loved the stories within this book. Loved the characters. But each time, I was left wanting more when the author would move on to a different story. That said, I think that's a good sign. I was incredibly engaged in it and why did this book have to end?

When I Found You
Nathan is up early one morning duck hunting when his dog, Sadie, discovers something beneath a tree--a newborn baby who Nathan mistakes for dead, until the baby moves his mouth. Nathan decides on a whim that he wants to adopt the child, until he finds out that the boy has a living grandmother. She decides to name him after Nathan, though the boy goes by Nat, and every year on his birthday, Nathan leaves a gift. Nat's grandmother doesn't tell him how he came to be in this world, instead leading him to believe that every baby is found in the woods by a man and Nathan just happens to be his man. Until Nat's grandmother has it with Nat's anger and defiance and brings him to Nathan's doorstep, where the two meet face-to-face. What follows is a story of unconditional, somewhat unexplainable love that Nathan gives to Nat. Although there were parts of the book where I found Nathan's character to not be entirely believable, because he was just so good, I still liked the story.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

I've been terrible about keeping up with this lately. I keep forgetting when it's Wednesday, and also, I've had a terrible run with books lately. I've started quite a few and returned them without finishing, so hit me with good book suggestions. I'm desperate!

In the Unlikely Event
I love Judy Blume and this book was really no exception. This book is set in a New Jersey town in the 1950s. During my Miri's 15th year, a succession of airplanes fall from the sky, causing panic and fear amongst her hometown. I struggled with this book at first because it is told from the perspective of so many characters, and I had a difficult time connecting them. Then I just started looking at their connection to the plane crashes and that made it much easier. Although I would call Miri the main character or the main focus, this book was full of interesting characters and plot lines. It was definitely an engaging story and since it was based on the plane crashes of Judy Blume's own youth, I had to wonder how much of it was personal versus fictional.

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel
Ahh, the book that caused much anger. If you haven't yet read it, my suggestion is this: Read it. Remind yourself that it was never edited and that it is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. Enjoy it for what it is. What it is: a coming of age for Jean Louise. The realization that her father is not the perfect, larger-than-life man she thought he was. The realization that even though people can recognize change as a good thing, they can still be resistant to it. An engaging story set during the Civil Rights era south. I loved this book. It worked. It did not change my view of Atticus Finch, rather it made him more human. I breezed through this in one day because I had to finish it, but I will definitely be revisiting it.

The Book of Speculation: A Novel
Simon Watson has a storied family history. He lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His sister, Enola, rarely keeps in contact, making her living reading tarot cards with a traveling carnival. Simon's parents are long dead, his mother one of many women in a line of "mermaids," women who make their living holding their breath for an unbelievably long time in carnival shows. One day, a book arrives on Simon's doorstep, from an antique bookseller who purchased it in a speculation lot. The bookseller believes that the book relates to Simon's family, and as Simon begins to read, he realizes that it not only relates to his family, but tells a dire warning of the women in his family who can hold their breath, yet all seem to drown on July 24. As July 24 draws near, Simon races against time and superstition to save his sister. This book flipped back and forth between the book Simon received and the actual events going on in Simon's life. This was one of the rare books where I was just as enthralled in both ends of the story--the past and the present. The author did an amazing job seamlessly weaving it together and allowing me to suspend my disbelief and just follow the story. I loved this book.

UnDivided (Unwind Dystology)
The final book in the UnWind dystology. Like the rest of the books, it is told from multiple perspectives and interspersed with real life newspaper and magazine articles. In this book, the world set forth in Unwind is beginning to unravel, as teenagers and others are standing up against unwinding. It's no longer seen as a solution by all. Connor and Risa still play major roles but both have matured throughout the novels and play a different role than they did in the beginning. Ultimately, I felt this worked well as a conclusion. I was miffed in book three that it wasn't done, but I can now better understand the lead-in to the last book and it was a well-done ending.

Finders Keepers: A Novel
This is part of the Mr. Mercedes series, which Stephen King purports to be a hard boiled detective series. Because there are possibly some elements of supernatural in here, I couldn't quite buy the hard boiled detective aspect, but it's Stephen King so it still works. Morris Bellamy is angry because his favorite literary character sold out. So angry that years after the books have been published, he tracks down the author and kills him. In the process, he discovers a treasure of unpublished books (and a safe full of cash), which he hides just before being locked away for another crimes. Years later, a young boy discovers both the books and the cash. Unsurprisingly, Morris is released from prison and comes back to claim what is rightfully his. Bill Hodges, Jerome Robinson and Holly Gibney from Mr. Mercedes are, of course, in the mix and out to stop Morris. This was an easy, enjoyable read.

The Last Pilot: A Novel
Jim Harrison is a US Air Force test pilot. He spends his days rocketing into the sky, at speeds most of it can barely imagine. When America enters the space race, Jim passes up the chance to be an astronaut to welcome his miracle daughter Florence to the world. As Florence grows, life becomes blissfully routine--until tragedy hits and the foundation Jim had built his life upon is shaken to the very core. What follows beyond is the incomparable pain that life can bring and how it can ruin even the strongest of us.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

I have so many library requests stalled right now. I can't wait until they all come in at once, probably on my first day of school.

The Well: A Novel
As the novel begins, Ruth Ardingly reveals that she's under house arrest at her farm, called The Well. As bits of the story trickle out, it seems that most of England is under a drought. Water is restricted, farms are dying, except for Ruth's lush property where it rains, the ponds are full, and everything thrives. The story goes between Ruth's present and the past, as it trickles out that many people--good and bad--were attracted to The Well, almost like a pilgrimage. In the midst of this, lies Ruth, her husband Mark (forced to leave the city after beating child pornography charges but not beating the shame of being accused), her daughter Angie an on-again, off-again drug addict, her grandson Lucien, and a group of women called the Sisters. There were parts of this novel that seemed a little too long and winding to me, but overall, the author weaved a haunting story of the ties that bind and how easily they can be broken.

Luckiest Girl Alive: A Novel
Ani, formally known as TifAni, has it all. A successful career with a woman's magazine, a fiancĂ© who comes from old money, a diet that is going to make her as thin as Kate Middleton on her wedding day, but she can't escape her past. The story fluctuates between present day Ani and TifAni (known as Finny) in high school. Ani's high school days make up part of the insecure adult she is now, as her story of bullying, violence and revenge slowly trickles out. Through all of this, it was also somewhat tricky to tell if Ani was truly a reliable narrator--or whether she was really giving the whole truth. The book is peppered with hints about something that happened to Ani at her prestigious high school, Bradley. Whatever it was is so big that Ani is taking part in a documentary about the incident, despite the misgivings of her fiancĂ©. As Ani comes closer to facing the past, parts of her present self begin to unravel. I enjoyed this book at the value of what it was… an interesting, somewhat twisted mystery with a few tough subjects thrown in between. There were some plot holes and questions left unanswered, but it kept me interested.

Await Your Reply: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle)
This is the kind of book that builds up three different people. At first, you're not sure how their lives interact, but then it slowly becomes clear. At the heart of the novel is Miles and his twin, Hayden. Diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen, Hayden has escaped institutionalization and Miles is desperate to find him. Along the way, Miles follows a trail of broken lives discarded by his brother. In the midst of this, 19 year old Lucy has escaped her boring midwest town with her history teacher, George, who promises her a life of money and happiness--and she's inclined to believe him because after all, how else could a teacher afford a Maserati? Finally, there's Ryan and his dad, Jay. Ryan fakes his death to follow a money-making scheme with Jay, leaving his family to believe he committed suicide. This is a book with many threads, but the author managed to tie them all together at the end--with a finish that left me questioning what was real and what was imagined.

The Shadow of Your Smile
Sometimes I read books because I can read them and not think. Mary Higgins Clark always offers a book that I know will keep me engaged without having to put forth too much brainpower. Olivia Morrow is dying. In her possession is a document that will prove that her cousin Catherine, a nun in the running for sainthood, gave birth to a child at age 17 and that child is heir to a considerable fortune. As she mulls over what to do with this information, it becomes clear that there are many forces willing to go to all ends to bury this information along with Olivia.

What are you reading?