Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year 2017

As I do each year, what follows are my favorite books of 2016.  I've read many end of year book lists and like always, I don't know half of the books on any of the lists.  And I read a lot!  Goodreads has me at 60 books in 2016.  This year I've taken up listening to books in the car, reading during my lunch break at work on my iPhone and the old standby, in bed at night before going to sleep.  Ahhh.
I love books, books and more books.  So here we go!

Most entertaining - Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.  This is a trip through the land of panagrams and is absolutely delightful.

Most disappointing - Truly, Madly, Guilty by Lianne Moriarty.  I love to read Lianne Moriarty novels. They are funny, serious, fast paced and about women and their relationships with those around them.  It took everything I had to get through this one. Not up to her usual standards.

The best novel come to life - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows.  I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Guernsey this summer and even took the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tour.  We visited all the spots in the book and learned even more about the German occupation.  Fabulous story set in a wonderful place.

Funniest - Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen. I heard Carl Hiaasen speak at the Vero Beach Book Center , had him autograph my copy of the book and even had my picture taken with him.  He is a hoot!  I've lived in Florida for 36 years so the absurd Florida humor he writes is hysterical and real!

Most Inspirational - Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I read the book and listened to it in the car.  I learned so much about how to let my creative juices flow.  I am going to get my writing career off the ground in 2017!

Best Classic - There's a three way tie here.  Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  The reason these books are called classics is because the stories they tell will never grow old and the the lessons we can learn from them are timeless.

Best book about love and kindness - A Man Called Ove by FredrikBackman.  Everyone should read this story about how love and kindness to our neighbors can change lives.  Ove shows us all what the true meaning of life really is.

Books are the windows into our souls.  So read a little more in 2017 and see how rich your life can become when you lose yourself in a new world or feel the warmth of a character's heart.
Have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!  2017 promises to be a good one!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J K Rowling

I first saw this title while in Heathrow airport this summer, browsing through the bookstore before my transatlantic flight home.  A little boy explained to me that it was a play on the London stage.  His father bought him a copy to keep him occupied in their long flight.  I figured I could get it stateside and not have to lug it in my already souvenir filled carryon.  So I added it to my reading list.

I'm a Harry Potter fan but not so much of a fan that I would rush out to buy and read his latest installment on release day.  In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Harry is grown up, married to Ginny with children of his own.  His son, Albus attends Hogwarts and the sorting hat has put him in Slytherin!  Horrors!  Thus the name "cursed child".  Hermione and Ron also have children at Hogwarts.  She has a high profile job at the Ministry and Ron is busy creating new jokes for the joke store.  Even Draco Malfoy gets in on the act when his son, Scorpius befriends Albus on the Hogwarts Express.

I found this story only ordinary, not exciting.  The young wizard gets into a bind when he finds it difficult to follow in his father's famous footsteps.  The father struggles to be a good role model to his son since he never knew his own.  And a wizard of the dark arts tries to trick them all in order to get something she wants. This play requires the reader to have a vivid imagination in order to recreate the places and people in Harry's young life since it is a script of the play, not a novel.  In the end, I found Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be somewhat entertaining but very, very predictable.  

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We all know the classic Christmas story of Ebenezer Scrooge but how many of us can say we have actually ever read the book?  The term scrooge is part of our Christmas vocabulary right up there with Santa and candy canes.  But I've never read the book itself, only watched a television version or enjoyed the play at my local playhouse. Until now.  I was given a copy of it in a beautiful leather bound cover and thought this Christmas was the perfect time to read it.

Scrooge is Scrooge.  He's a grumpy, old cheapskate surrounded by cheerful, happy people.  His nephew is quite jolly and Bob Cratchit sports the ultimate positive attitude even though his life appears to be full of misery.  As the spirits appear at his bedside, Scrooge becomes fearful, which leads me to believe that he knows what a miserable man he really is.  But when the spirit shows him the future and leads him to a graveyard, Scrooge is oblivious that he is the dead person and people are laughing at his expense.  That particular scene for me was the real kick in the pants to poor Ebenezer.

Scrooge learned his lesson however, that night.  He became likable and charitable spreading good cheer with the money he had so carefully hoarded in the past.  He freed himself from his chains. A Christmas Carol is a feel good story we can all learn something from.  It is delightful reading that embodies the true Christmas spirit.  So start a new tradition, read this story each Christmas to yourself, your children or your grandchildren.  Or maybe a friend would enjoy a copy.  The more good cheer we spread, the larger the circle of gratitude we create, the better the place we will live in.

Merry Christmas and God bless us, every one!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

I'm really not much of a fan of the writings of the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen.  That era just doesn't appeal to me.  I'm more of an early 20th century girl loving John Steinbeck and Thomas Wolfe.  But I like to keep an open mind and thought a modern day Bronte twist might open a door for me.

Lucy sells rare books in the corner of a high end interior design shop in Chicago.  She's smart and talented but as we find out in this story, has a greedy side.  She takes liberties with her books that are deceitful.  When her tricks are discovered, her world begins to fall apart.  That is until Helen steps in.  Helen is the wealthy grandmother of Lucy's now ex-boyfriend, and she needs an escort to make a trip to England to right a wrong that has troubled her most of her life.

Lucy was not a very likeable character. I wanted to believe she was smart and kind but at the oddest times, she'd lie through her teeth to get something she wanted.  She was too contradictory for me to warm up to her.  And Helen's reason for dragging herself to England was thinly veiled.  It never seemed important enough for me to be engaged with her.

The most fascinating part of this story however, is the towns and sights across England that showcase the lives of the Bronte sisters.  Literary tours through homes, churches and villages associated with writers are very popular with traveling and well read tourists.  I loved the descriptions of the charming spots where they had tea or the English gardens that called for a peaceful stroll through them.

I love to travel and see historical sights, and I'd love to visit these places but after reading The Bronte Plot, I'm still not convinced that I would fall in love with reading Jane Eyre

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

The holidays are upon us which makes it the perfect time of year to read a delightful Christmas story. Felix Funicello, is a young cousin to the beautiful and famous Annette. Felix attends a Catholic school where the nuns rap the pupils knuckles without hesitation and his parents run the diner at the local bus station where posters of Annette adorn the walls.

It's the 1960's, a time I remember with fond memories.  if you were a child in the sixties, you will chuckle with delight at Felix's embarrassments.  He's dealing with parochial school, girls, an awakening sexuality, friends, bullies, and of course a family who top the list when it comes to humiliating Felix on a daily basis.  His story begins to seem all too familiar.

Throw in an anything but run of the mill Christmas pageant and Wishin' and Hopin' will take you on a comical trip down memory lane.  This story is delightful, charming, and full of laughter.  But don't blink.  You might miss an appearance by the charming Annette.  Fun from start to finish!

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...