Tuesday, September 3, 2019

August 2019 in Books

I'm a little late with my book recap this month.  It's been a crazy weekend here!  Ellie turned 12 on Friday, we had a birthday party for her on Saturday and then one for Carina on Sunday (her actual birthday isn't for a couple weeks yet), and school starts today!  So needless to say, a lot of extra running around and prep.  Anyway, a slightly shorter list this month.  Some really good ones and a few disappointments in the bunch.  Here's the rundown:

The Flight Portfolio - Julie Orringer - historical fiction - three stars - You know how I said last month that I thought I needed to lay off the historical fiction, particularly WWII stuff?  Well sometimes you are just foiled by when the holds come into the library.  This one had been on my list for a while and if finally showed up.  I was well and truly disappointed.  It was SO LONG.  Now, I have nothing against long books, I read a lot of them, but this one was long for no reason.  It reminded me of some of the movies I've seen recently where someone needed to really leave some of the footage on the floor in the editing room.  There was just so much that really didn't contribute to the story itself, not the least of which is the fictional relationship between the main character, Varian Fry, and his friend/lover.  It could have been so much tighter and more effective because Fry's story is fascinating and well worth telling, but seemed to take a back seat in the book.  A frustrating read, but I did learn about Fry's operation, and pointed me in the direction of some more non-fiction books to read.

Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler - Lynne Olson - non-fiction - five stars - I really enjoyed this one.  While I'm a big fatigued when it comes to WWII historical fiction, I still love learning about it, and this was a very detailed and in-depth look at the work of Marie-Madeline Fourcade whose Alliance network lasted from 1941 through the end of the war.  It's pretty amazing that she was able to keep it together for so long, and that she survived when so many did not.  She was captured multiple times and after the war worked to determine the fate of those in her network.  Definitely worth a read.

We Hope for Better Things - Erin Bartels - fiction - four stars - The story of journalist Elizabeth Balsam who loses her job after a failed expose on a local politician.  She heads to the rural home of a great-aunt to lick her wounds as well as investigate the request of a stranger that she return a camera and photographs to said great-aunt.  As she gets to know her great-aunt and her story, she also examines herself, what brought her to that place, and unravels the story behind the photographs and camera.  This was a bit predictable, but an enjoyable story.

Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back - Jackie Speier - memoir - four stars - This was a book that I plucked off the new bookshelf because it looked interesting.  While I knew about the Jonestown massacre, I really knew nothing about Speier, who was part of Congressman Leo Ryan's delegation, and who barely survived.  I really enjoyed learning about her, her childhood, how she got involved in politics, and how she continued her involvement after Ryan's death eventually being elected to years later to the same seat in Congress that he held.

White Like Her: My Family's Story of Race and Racial Passing - Gail Lukasik - non-fiction - three stars - This books was another disappointment for me.  Lukasik, a mystery writer, began researching her mother's background after her death.  She appeared on Genealogy Roadshow as part of her quest to find out more.  She learned that her mother, who had an African American background left Louisiana when she married her father to pass as white.  There were parts of this book that were so interesting and then parts that were not at all.  Those parts were very heavily focused on her genealogy research, but were quite in depth and for someone who just wanted to know the story of her family, it was a bit too much.  If you are a genealogy buff, you'd likely find those parts fascinating, but for me they were a bit of a drag.

The Wanderers (The West Country Trilogy, #2) - Tim Pears - historical fiction - five stars.  I read the first book in this trilogy, The Horseman, last month and loved it.  That one had a very deliberate pace which you really had to kind of adjust to when reading, but was a great story, and by the end I was totally sold on the story and characters.  This book moved much more quickly it seemed, although maybe I was prepared for it, but it follows Leo's journey as he leaves home and tries to find his way in the world.  He meets all sorts of different people, some good, some bad, but also continues to grow his knowledge and skills.  Really enjoyed this one, even more than the first.

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune - Roselle Lim - fiction - three stars - This one was another let down.  I love books about restaurants/cooking, but this one fell flat for me.  Natalie's estranged/reclusive mother dies and she returns home to settle affairs and bury her mother, and becomes enmeshed in her dying street in Chinatown.  She decides to stay and try to reopen her grandmother's restaurant to save the street.  This was just predictable, there were some weird plot twists that I just didn't care for, and the characters were only so so.  If I had to do it again, I'd skip this one, just not a lot of substance there.

The Spies of Shilling Lane - Jennifer Ryan - historical fiction - four stars - I really liked this one.  It's another that had been on my hold list for a while, and I was not that enthusiastic about it given my recent WWII historical fiction reads, but I really enjoyed this one.  It was more of a light and fluffy historical fiction book if that's a thing.  It didn't get into anything really deep and heavy, but was more of a mystery that took place over the span of a week, at the most two.  It's about Mrs. Braithwaite, a woman who's hit middle age, her husband divorced her, and she goes to London to talk with her daughter to whom she needs to reveal a long held secret.  The problem is, when she gets there, her daughter is missing.  She enlists the help of her daughter's landlord, and they embark on a series of adventures and misadventures searching for her daughter.  In the course of the book, Mrs. Braithwaite rebuilds her relationship with her daughter, and also comes to understand herself better.  Quick moving and entertaining.

Favorites this month were Madame Fourcade and The Wanderers.  I'm currently reading the final book in Tim Pears' West Country Trilogy, and after that I have Evvie Drake Starts Over as well as a couple non-fiction books.  I found that the non-fiction were drawing my interest a bit more this month, so I moved a few of those up on my TBR list.  As always, please share what you're reading!

1 comment:

  1. great post as always. I so looked forward to the Flight Portfolio as I loved the author's book, the Invisible Bridge. So good! I did not finish The Flight Portfolio (and it was a mother's day gift --UGH). I just couldn't get into it. The story was so winding and long and I don't finish books if I don't like them. I also read The Things We cannot Say by Lee Rimmer. It was good, not great. And The Summer of 1969, which I picked up in an airport. Beach/summer fodder. It kept my interest enough to finish it but so not worth $$!! HA.