Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 2018 In Books and a Halloween Sale

It's the end of the month which means it's time to share what I've been reading!  Lots of really good books this month, this was a bit heavier in terms of subject matter, but some really good ones in here.  My favorites were Us Against Them and The Lido - read on for the full reviews:

French Rhapsody - Antoine Laurain - fiction - five stars - I love Laurain's little novelettes.  They are so rich and full you feel like you read a full-length novel.  In this one Alain, a middle-aged doctor, receives a letter lost by the post office for decades.  It's from a recording studio responding to the demo that his band sent in years earlier, saying they would like to hear more.  Of course the band never went anywhere and he's lost touch with all the members.  He starts to reach out to them and you learn a bit about each of them, what happened to them, who they became, etc.  This story surprised me in a couple ways - more than Laurain's other books, and again I love how rich and deep a story he is able to convey in such a small form factor.  

The House of Unexpected Sisters (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #18) - Alexander McCall Smith - detective - five stars - Of the more recent books in this series, this one is my favorite.  I think because it focuses a bit more on Mwa Ramotswe and a little less on Mwa Makutsi who tends to annoy me.  I thought it was a great look into Mwa Ramotswe's back story and her character and who she is.  I also think it was a bit more focused on a single story arc as opposed to some books where there are multiple cases going on at once.  I will say I'd love for one of these books one of these days to not include Violet Sephotho though, I mean she can't possibly be the culprit of everything bad in Gabarone.  Still, one of my favorite in this series.

Britt-Marie Was Here - Fredrik Backman - fiction - five stars - The sequel to My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry, this book focuses on our OCD friend Britt-Marie who has left Kent and is trying to sort out what to do with herself.  She gets herself a temporary job managing the recreation center in a dying town.  Despite her total lack of social skills, she manages to endear herself to the local populace, becomes the soccer coach for the local youth team, and helps to rally the towns people and give them hope.  Funny and sweet and multi-layered.  Backman is so good at providing the right details and developing his characters.

She Regrets Nothing - Andrew Dunlop - fiction - four stars - Laila Lawrence finds out at her mother's funeral that her father's estranged family (he died years before) is one of the wealthiest families in New York City.  Two years later she moves there after a divorce to start fresh.  As she inserts herself into the lives of her cousins and tries to unravel what occurred years before there's a tension between what she wants, what she feels she is owed, and who she wants to be.  If I went by half stars, I probably would have given this more of a three and a half star rating.  She's not particularly likable, but you feel like she's a character that might be able to be saved/salvaged into someone good, and that if circumstances had been different she would have been different.  

Us Against You (Beartown, #2) - Fredrik Backman - fiction - five stars - So, so, good.  After I read Britt-Marie, I heard that the sequel to Beartown was out and had to get it right away.  This picks up where Beartown ended, with most of the players defecting to Hed and the Council deciding to disband the team.  Politics comes into play as machinations occur to save the club, but at what cost.  You see how people are played against one another causing rifts and division within the community.  I love the way Backman weaves together the overall story as well as the characters and the stories of the individuals, and I'm hopeful there will be additional Beartown books as he alludes at one point there are more stories to tell.  As with Beartown, there is much heartbreak and loss, but also hope and forgiveness and healing.  A must read.

The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir - Maude Julien - memoir - three stars - This one could have been really good.  It's the memoir of a girl who grew up with a pretty messed up life.  Basically she was part of a cult of three in which her father was the leader and she and her mother (who he adopted at a young age in order to later father the perfect child) are the subjects.  There are some very interesting parts - her 'training' to make her into basically a superhuman who can withstand anything, but for me it got bogged down in the intricacies of her father's convoluded beliefs.  Also, it takes you up to where she is able to leave the life, but has very little about how she recovered and her life afterwards, which I think is needed.  It leaves you hanging with a lot of questions.

Tangerine - Christine Mangan - historical fiction - three stars - I was really disappointed by this book.  The cover said something about how fans of Donna Tartt and Gillian Flynn would love it, and for me it was a poor comparison.  It's the story of a Alice, newly married woman living in Tangier with her new husband. Her marriage isn't great and she really isn't doing well in the environment when her college roommate Lucy turns up. The story unravels what happened between the two estranged friends and what Lucy's real motives are.  This was a bust for me.  It didn't have the edge that Tartt and Flynn's books have and it was predictable to boot.  I feel like whereas I didn't really like any of the characters in Gone Girl it was suitably appalling and just crazy, and this one was just meh, plus I could kind of see it all coming.

The Lido - Libby Page - fiction - five stars - I loved this one.  It was just such a sweet story about Rosemary, an older lady whose local outdoor pool is going to be shut down, and Kate, an aspiring journalist who gets assigned the story.  The two form a friendship and work to save the pool with the rest of the locals.  Kate who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and loneliness begins to deal with her issues and finds a new family at the pool.  There is nothing profound or particularly extraordinary about this book, but it's just a great story with characters you cheer for.  I really loved it.

In The Shadow of 10,000 Hills - Jennifer Haupt - fiction - four stars - The story of Rachel Shepherd who travels to Rwanda to try and unravel the story of her father and why he left years ago. It weaves in the story of two other women who lived through the genocide in Rwanda. Because my husband Andrew has been on several missions trips to Rwanda, we try and read as much about the country as possible - mostly non-fiction, but I do pick up fiction books about the country from time to time. This one was good. I thought the story of the survivors was compelling as well as her father's story, and there was definitely a twist I wasn't expecting, but I wasn't crazy about Rachel's back story and what drove her to Rwanda in the first place (marital/personal issues), I feel like it was character development that kind of fell flat and detracted from the rest of the story.

Next up in my pile are Dear Mrs. Bird and The Shortest Way Home.  I've got a bunch of books on hold at the library, but I'm hoping those don't show up for a while as I also have a whole stack of books Ellie has assigned for me to read, and for a while the holds were coming in fast and furious and I couldn't work any of them in.  I've missed the juvenile fiction and am hoping to report on a bunch of those books next month.  If there's a must read (or a must not read) you have to share, please let me know!

I also wanted to let you guys know there's a one day sale happening over at Ellen Hutson today (affiliate link) in case there are some things you need to pick up. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful list! I've earmarked the Backman titles. These posts are wonderfully detailed.