Saturday, June 1, 2019

May 2019 in Books

Hey all!  Popping in to share my May reads.  There were a few duds in the batch, but also some REALLY good ones.  Here's the recap:

A Mango-Shaped Space - Wendy Mass - juvenile fiction - three stars - This was one Ellie had me read, and I wasn't a huge fan.  It's about a girl named Mia who has a form of synesthia.  In her case when she sees/hears words, sounds, and numbers they have colors associated with them.  It's about how she is diagnosed and comes to terms with this gift.  It was an interesting concept for a kids book, but I just didn't like the girl.  She was pretty self-focused, which resulted in her not being a great friend and often getting into trouble with her parents and teachers.  Just meh, I wouldn't recommend it.

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller - fiction - four stars - I loved Miller's book Circe (which I read last month) so much that I ran out and borrowed this one.  This one was not as compelling for me.  Part of that was because I thought the book would be about Achilles, but it was really more about his companion Patroclus.  It deals with Patroclus' upbringing and how that leads him to be exiled in the court of Achilles' father.  Achilles and Patroclus grow up together and eventually become romantically involved.  Overall I connected more with the story of Circe.  Whereas Circe was the story of strong woman finding herself, Achilles/Patroclus just seemed less likable and more flawed.

Song of a Captive Bird - Jasmin Darznik - historical fiction - five stars - I really loved this one.  I actually didn't realize until I got to the end that it is a fictionalized account of a real person, Forugh Farrokhzad.  Forugh was a female Iranian poet from the 1950s/60s.  She broke all the rules in that very traditional society, writing about (and having) affairs and, living unconventionally.  She was at one point committed by her family, and at another point jailed.  A fascinating character who died very young (at only 32).  I highly recommend this one.

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir - Ruth Reichl - memoir - five stars - I am a huge fan of Reichl's books ever since I read Garlic and Sapphires which is a must read if you love books and food.  Garlic and Sapphires was about her time as the food editor for the New York Times.  Since then she's published several additional memoirs dealing with different parts of her life as well as a book of fiction - all worth reading.  When I saw that she had a new book out, I was thrilled.  This one deals with her time as editor of Gourmet magazine.  It's a fascinating look at the behind the scenes of the magazine while it was in it's heyday, as well as it's eventual demise and the overall collapse of much of the print industry.  What I love about Reichl is how effortlessly the stories flow together from anecdotes about specific individuals, to descriptions of specific meals and dishes, to how her personal life ties into the events.  I'm often frustrated by memoirs that seem disjointed, which jump around too much and seem to lack focus.  Reichl's books never have that problem.  A must read.

The Colors of All the Cattle (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #19) - Alexander McCall Smith - Detective - four stars - I was browsing the new book shelves at the library and was happy to see that there was a new No. 1 Ladies' Detective agency book out.  I really enjoyed this one.  There are two main threads, one in which Mwa Ramotswe, rather unwillingly, is running for a seat on the Gaborone City Council, and the second a case the agency takes on involving a hit and run.  There have been a couple of these books where I thought there were too many threads going on, but this was not one of them.  I really liked the pacing and how the story carried through, and I really liked that we got to see more of/got to know Charlie.  He's growing up!  If you are fan of these stories, you'll definitely like this one.

The Lost Girls of Paris - Pan Jenoff - historical fiction - five stars - I really enjoyed this one.  It begins with a young war widow finding a suitcase in NYC's Grand Central Station which contains photographs of a dozen women.  She then begins to unravel the story/mystery behind them.  The book bounces between her search and events in the past that explain who those women were - members of the women's branch of Britain's Special Operations Executive who worked behind enemy lines during WWII - and what happened to them.  The women were very effective and in many ways less conspicuous than male agents as most men should have been off fighting.  If you love WWII historical fiction, this is a good one.

Like Water on Stone - Dana Walrath - young adult - five stars - I've read a few books on this topic - the Armenian genocide of 1914, but this was unique.  It's classified as young adult.  I was hoping to have Ellie read it first, but decided to hold off on that because it does get a bit gruesome and deals with rape.  It's also unique because it's written in verse.  The poems don't follow the same format, they vary, and they are told in multiple voices from the different characters in the book.  It is a fast,  but moving read and the poetry really lends itself to the movement and action in the book. These events continue to be heartbreaking, but there is hope, and in a few years I will definitely be sharing this one with Ellie.

The Long-Lost Home (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #6) - Maryrose Wood - juvenile fiction - two stars - So this was a series I started long ago. The first couple books were OK, but after a while it was kind of boring and predictable. Still, I kind of wanted to see what happened, so I kept reading them. This was the last book in the series, just meh. I thought they way they ended things was pretty lame. It's not a series I would recommend, but they are quick reads and I just wanted to get the full story.

The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family - Roger Cohen - history - two stars - I was not quite sure how to classify this book, so I just went with history. It's the story of the author's family which he traces back to pre-WWI, and follows through to present day. Based on the description, I thought this was more of a Jewish diaspora story tracing the movement of his family from Russian/Slavic countries, to Britain, Israel, the US, etc. It was just a big disappointment. It's all over the place, so it's really hard to follow a common thread, and is also very focused on the history of mental illness in his family. I was frustrated by how schizophrenic it was, there were definitely some interesting bits, but these tended to be about people only tangentially related to his family, so again, the thread of the story kept getting tangled up. If I had it to do over, I would skip this one.

The Flying Circus - Susan Crandall - historical fiction - five stars - I really enjoyed Crandall's book Whistling Past the Graveyard, so thought I would give her another try. This is the story of Henry, an orphan who is running from a crime he didn't commit. He meets Cora Rose who is running from an arranged engagement and they take up with Gil a barnstormer with a past he is running from also. Together they form an act and travel across the country.  I really enjoyed the characters and how their backstories unravelled and how they became a family.  Definitely planning to read some more from Crandall.

Sold on a Monday - Kristina McMorris - historical fiction - five stars - The story of an aspiring photographer/reporter from the 1930's whose chance encounter/photo of a couple of boys leads to his big break. But, his newfound position comes at a cost.  As he tries to undo the damage that his story has brought, he also rebuilds his relationship with his father.  I found the story compelling and there was definitely some mystery and action/suspense. McMorris took the idea from a photo she saw from the time period as she wondered about the background and the story behind the photo.  I really love that that is what generated the story, and it is a good one.  Definitely recommend.

How about you guys?  Would love to hear what you loved and what I should stay away from.  next up for me, the first in a new series from Alexander McCall Smith - The Department of Sensitive Crimes, and then the new Spy School book (which I let Ellie read first), and Daughter of Moloka'i which is the sequel to a book I read last year....I have four holds at the library that I need to go pick up too....

1 comment:

  1. I'm disappointed that the Incorrigible Children series ends up boring and predictable. I've only read the first two and have been waiting for our library to get the next book. I didn't realise I've been waiting for so long and have 4 books to catch up on (or not, if it's not worth my time)! Miss S, who's 15 now, enjoyed a lot of Wendy Mass' books (11 Birthdays etc) so it'll be interesting what she'll think of A Mango-Shaped Space. I like the No. 1 Ladies' Detective agency books so it's good to hear that even at book #19 they're still enjoyable.