Monday, July 31, 2017

July 2017 in Books

Lots of books this month and interestingly no juvenile fiction.  We were on vacation, so I did a lot of reading then, and I actually do have a couple of books from Ellie queued up, so you'll see some more of that next month.  Overall my favorites were the Guernsey Society and Whistling Past the Graveyard, but I've got the full rundown for you below.

Girl Waits with Gun - Amy Stewart - detective - four stars - I have mixed feelings about this book.  It had been on my to read list for a while.  I liked the story (which turns out to be based on real events) about a woman (in 1914) who is drawn into a mystery after confronting an unscrupulous factory owner who runs into her carriage with his car.  I thought the characters were good, but the writing style wasn't my favorite.  I'm not sure why, I just thought the prose itself was kind of choppy and not smooth.  This is actually a series, so I'm thinking I'll give it another chance as I did like the story itself.

Whistling Past the Graveyard - Susan Crandall - fiction - five stars - I can't recommend this one enough.  I loved it.  The story of a girl who runs away from her grandmother to go to her mother in Nashville.  Along the way she meets a black woman traveling with a white baby.  This is the era of segregation and she learns a lot about what it means to be black during the journey as well as what a family is.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - fiction - five stars - This was such a good book.  It's set just after the end of WWII, and Juliet Ashton, a writer, is looking for a subject for her next book.  She begins a correspondence with a man from Guernsey, which then grows to include many of the people in the town eventually causing her to go there.  Guernsey was occupied during the War and the book discusses the occupation, POWs brought to work there, as well as some beloved islanders who were sent to camps during the war.  The book is funny, sad, happy, and just so good.  Unfortunately the author became very ill as she was finishing the book up, and passed away but not before her she asked her niece Annie Barrows (who wrote the Ivy and Bean books) to help her finish it.  This is her only novel, which is a shame because it's so good, and I would have loved to have read more from her.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards - fiction - three stars - This was kind of a miss for me  The story was interesting enough, a doctor ends up having to deliver his twins during a snowstorm.  One is born with Down's Syndrome and he gives her to the assisting nurse to take to a home and tells his wife that the baby died.  The nurse is unable to leave her and takes her and raises her on her own.  The story deals with the aftermath - how it affected the doctor, his wife, and their remaining child.  Aside from the nurse, I ended the book just not really liking any of the characters.  

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - fiction - five stars - The story of a man whose wife disappears, and all signs point to him murdering her, but it turns out she's framing him (sorry if that is a bit of a spoiler, but since there is a movie out based on the book I figured most folks know the general plot).  It's kind of a fascinating look at some very messed up people, but it was interesting to see how she went about doing it and the ending was just kind of mind blowing and left me shaking my head because these people are just messed up.

The Boy Who Runs: The Odyssey of Julius Achon - Julius Achon - autobiography - five stars - The story of a runner from Uganda.  He was taken by soldiers in the LRA for a brief period as a child, but was able to escape and return to his family.  After that, he decided he wanted to do better, and set a goal of becoming an Olympic runner.  He did run in several international races and was recruited to attend George Mason University in Virginia where he set records and won a championship.  After many years of running in road races in order to send his winnings home to his family in Uganda, he ended up working for the Nike organization where he met a man who helped him set up a charity to help those in Uganda.  What I really love about this story is that his heart for his country and family was constant, while he could have stayed in the U.S. working to raise funds here, he is living and working in Uganda and making a huge difference.   

A Matter of Inches: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond - Clint Malarchuk - autobiography - four stars - So I used to read a ton of hockey books (our family likes hockey), and this is one of the books I picked up for Andrew for Christmas this past year.  Malarchuk was a goalie for our team (the Washington Capitals) for a while, and the incident in which his throat was slashed by an opponent's skate in a freak incident during a game in Buffalo is pretty well known.  This book is pretty comprehensive dealing with childhood as well as career after his playing days were over.  The main theme is depression.  Malarchuk suffered from it as a child, as a player, and later as a coach, and how he was able to deal with it throughout life.  He's very candid, he talks about relapses, arrests, alcohol, rehab, etc. which I appreciated.  

The Life We Bury - Allen Eskens - fiction - five stars - Another great book.  About a boy in college, Joe Talbert, taking a writing course.  He needs to outline and write parts of a biography.  Since he doesn't have much family, he decides to go to a local nursing home and see if there is someone there he can interview.  He is introduced to a convicted murdered who has been released to the nursing home because he is dying of cancer.  As Joe talks with him and meets his friend Virgil, he begins to question whether he actually was the killer.  Really well written, and you don't want to put it down.  I'm definitely planning to read more from this author. 

The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan-American Highway - Teresa Bruce - memoir - four stars - I enjoy reading about the crazy things that other people do, because I'm just not that crazy.  When Bruce was a kid, her brother was killed in a tragic accident.  Her father's response was to take the family on a car trip (with a camper) down the Pan-American highway.  To be honest, I didn't know that such a thing existed, but it runs down the eastern edge of Central/South America.  You drive through a lot of countries where there are a lot of problems/violence/crime, there are severe elevation changes and extreme weather conditions.  Eventually their truck/camper broke down and they sold it and flew out of there.  Now years later, Bruce is recreating the journey and attempting to see if she can locate the camper.  Conditions are not that much better in some countries than they were previously, for example, they avoid Columbia altogether, and she and her husband deal with illness, theft, riots, etc.  But along the way she is able to reconnect with people who helped her family during their original trip as well as meet new 'angels'.  Just a very interesting read about a part of the world I don't know much about.

Did You Ever Have a Family - Bill Clegg - fiction - four stars - The story of a June Reid, whose daughter, fiance, ex-husband, and boyfriend are killed in a tragic accident the evening before her daughter's wedding.  She leaves everything behind and starts driving, ending up on the west coast after finding a journal from her daughter referencing a small motel there.  Told from different points of view of individuals affected by the disaster and who meet June on her journey.  Very much about loss and coping and healing.  It was at times a bit slow for me, and I thought some things came together a little too neatly, but overall very good.

Leaving Berlin - Joseph Kanon- fiction - four stars - The story of a German Jew who left/was deported from the U.S. because he wasn't willing to testify in the McCarthy hearings.  He makes a deal with the CIA to spy in East Germany in order to be able to return where he has a young son.  He is quickly mixed into society in East Germany, being recruited by both the Russians and East Germans to spy on those around him.  It seems like, and maybe it actually was, the wild west in terms of espionage.  The writing wasn't my favorite style, it took me a while to get acclimated to what was going on, and the level of backstabbing and intrigue seemed a little over the top.  I could have probably used a few less double agents, but a decent story.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Miriam! I've found that since I started working full time, I haven't been reading very much. Your post encouraged me to carve out some time to read. Thanks!