Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Year In Review

2015 Year in Review

I always like to look back at all the books I've read during the year.  I'm amazed at the sheer number of books I've read.  Included in that number, however are a lot of dogs.  I spent too much time thinking all those free Kindle specials were the answer to feeding my reading hunger.  They weren't.  I joined a book club at my local library and got back in touch with what it means to read a thoughtful and well written novel.

Here is my list of the most memorable titles in 2015 and my reasons why.

Best Overall Title
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
There's a reason this won the Pulitzer Prize.  It's a beautiful and perfectly crafted story about a blind, French girl during WWII. Exquisite!

Most Talked About
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
I have never been that attached to an image of Atticus Finch found in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Here I think we see a real man and his struggle to raise his family.

Most Out of My Comfort Zone
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
I don't usually read thrillers or horror.  I can watch the news if I want any of that.  But Stephen King is a brilliant writer and I enjoyed every single page.

Most Charming
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Paris, a barge on the Seine, romance and books.  A recipe for love and adventure unfolds that will fill your heart.

Best Non Fiction
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
I had the responsibility of making the end of life decisions for my elderly step mother in 2015.  This book helped me navigate that world with greater understanding.

Most Impactful
Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
A recovering alcoholic finds himself in an unlikely place and takes two young boys he doesn't know on his summer camping trip.  An amazing an unbreakable bond forms between them.  This novel teaches so many lessons in life and love.

2015 turned out great in my world of books.  Here's to an even better 2016.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

Lucy's life is a mess.  She's living in a tiny apartment where her rack of clothes has to double as the curtains.  She's still hanging on to her past relationship with a globe trotting boyfriend who dumped her almost three years ago.  A lie on her resume helped Lucy land her most recent job after she was fired from a much more lucrative one. And then the letters from her life began to arrive.  She refuses to respond to them, but her life is persistent.

When I started reading this book, I thought I'd never make it to the end.  The first ten pages or so seemed to drag on forever with long sentences. I couldn't make heads or tails of where I might be headed.  Then Lucy finally decides to meet with her life and let the fun begin.  They don't exactly hit it off. We could all say we've had some disagreements with our lives at some point in time.  That's all I needed, I was hooked.

The Time of My Life is funny, charming and witty. It's fast, romantic and funny with a unique fantasy twist.  Life refused to go away even when Lucy tried to ignore him. And just as Lucy learns to love her life, you will too.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron

There Was An Old Woman by Hallie Ephron

When her alcoholic mother is rushed to the hospital, the neighbor, Mina Yetner, makes the call to let Evie Ferrante and her sister, Ginger, know what's happened.  Evie is a busy historical museum curator with no desire to bail out her mother yet again.  But Ginger insists it's Evie's turn to pitch in this time.  Evie goes back to the home she grew up in, only to find it a disaster.  Among the rotting food, roaches and new big screen television,  she also finds suspicious envelopes of cash and uncashed checks.  These discoveries start Evie on a journey she never imagined when she befriends the aging Mina.

I met Hallie Ephron once at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon.  She is interesting, dynamic and there is no question that she can write.  The characters are brilliantly created and the settings are expertly set.  When Evie is walking through mounds of trash and stink in her childhood home, the reader feels the skin crawling disgust just as Evie does. But this novel is billed as a suspense thriller.  Hardly.  I figured out what was going on less that half way through.

That being said, There Was An Old Woman is an interesting read.  It has a little bit of history, a touch of environmentalism and more about how gracefully or not, we face getting old. The subject matter knows how to play into that little voice of doubt in our heads, that grows louder as we age.  Beware.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I'm always excited to choose a new book to read once the last one is finished.  I'm a hoarder of books and thank goodness, I can keep a hefty stash on my Kindle.  This time the choosing was easy once I saw the name Paris in the title.  The terrorist attack there had recently occurred and I had visited Paris in April.  Paris was on my mind and in my prayers.  Spending time in a bookshop in Paris was exactly what I wanted.

Monsieur Perdu is a bookseller.  He sells them from his barge moored on the Seine.  He calls the barge 'The Literary Apothecary' since he has a knack for matching the perfect book to the person, choosing the right medicine so to speak.  It's been 21 years since the love of his life, Manon, left him. He never opened the goodbye letter she wrote, too afraid of its contents.  When he comes across the letter inside a book, his new love convinces him to read it.

The contents of the letter sets Jean Perdu off on a journey to search for Manon and mend his broken heart after all these years of pining for her.  A rag tag set of characters joins him along the way as he sails his barge down the rivers and canals of France.  Charming is used to describe this lovely tale over and over again.  And charming it most certainly is, from the first sentence to the delicious recipes included at the end.  The Little Paris Bookshop is delightful, winsome, seductive, and captivating.  I couldn't wait to read what would happen next.  Just as I fell in love with Paris, I loved The Little Paris Bookshop.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stitches by Anne Lamott

Stitches by Anne Lamott

I recently had my hip replaced and took this book with me to the hospital.  I thought that by the title alone, it would be just the spiritual medicine I would need to get me back on track.  Little did I know however, that I had no physical stitches in my incision.  The surgeon glued me back together.  Modern medicine is quite amazing.  

What I learned from this book is that even though I didn't get stitched back together, many stitches have been made in the quilt that is me from this experience.  We are made up of stitches, each one carefully sewn for every step we take in life.  

There are many passages here that I wanted to highlight and remember forever.  The one however, that stuck with me is, "The American way is to not need help, but to help."  Right now I need help to do a lot of things and I hate asking for it.  I'm using a walker just to get around.  Managing it and me is a full time effort.  I can't even get a drink from the refrigerator with out asking for it.  It is a humbling experience and a lesson I needed to learn.  And a stitch my quilt needed in order to grow.  

I love Anne Lamott.  She's funny and has a unique way of writing about the journey of life.  I have to admit I liked Help, Thanks, Wow a bit better than Stitches.  This book was exactly what I needed during my road to recovery.  It's amazing to me how books have a way of working their way to the top of the reading pile at just the right time.  

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...