November Round-Up

Another busy month of reading - here's a guide to the 21 books we reviewed this month; some newer titles but lots of back list books as well. Check the list to see if you missed any of our reviews - maybe you'll find your next favorite read right here! We had two Buddy Reads this month: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik - our Siskel and Ebert "thumbs up/thumbs down" review of this fantasy might surprise you; AND, The Library Book by Susan Orlean, a nonfiction accounting of the massive fire in the LA Central Library. Here are links to the other books Donna and I reviewed this month for your convenience: The Widow by Fiona Barton - the first novel by a prolific mystery writer, this one is a myste

November Mini Reviews - SEVEN short reviews to pique your interest

November was an excellent month for reading! Here are some of our quick and short reviews to inspire you to choose a new book: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls, Sacred by Dennis Lehane, The Innocent Man by John Grisham, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, and Arf by Spencer Quinn. Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf Genre: General Fiction Published 2015, 180 pages Terrie's read A quiet book, simply written, but impactful. It illustrates that there's the possibility of affection and love at any age, and that you don't have to live out your last years alone. It also shows how family can be detrimental to that very relatio

A black Texas Ranger tries to solve 2 murders in rural Texas - Bluebird, Bluebird, first in a series

A black Texas Ranger dealing with a pile of personal issues is called on to solve two murders in rural eastern Texas - a black lawyer passing through town and a local white woman. Racial tensions are high in this tiny backwater town; can the Ranger set aside his own issues and do his job? Bluebird, Bluebird (#1 Hwy59), Attica Locke Award: Edgar Genre: Mystery Published 2017, 303 pages The mystery is solid: two seemingly unrelated murders - a black man passing through town and a young, local white woman. The protagonist is a well-meaning but realistically flawed man just trying to do the best he can - my favorite kind of 'hero'. Darren (the Ranger) has marriage trouble, an extremely rocky re

A story of slavery and of a woman trying to make a change...

Set in Charlotte SC in the early 1800s, it's a tale of a young girl of society given her own slave on her 11th birthday. She immediately knows it's wrong and tries to reject the 'gift'. That begins the journey of Sarah and Handful (Hetty). The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd Genre: Historical Fiction Published 2014, 384 pages I really enjoyed this book! Although I read it in 2014, as soon as I saw the title on the Oprah Book Club list I'm compiling for this blog, I was immediately reminded of how much I like this book. I really want to include this review because if you haven't read the book yet, I'm hoping to encourage you to pick it up. "To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a f

Street Lawyer: A lawyer on the way up has an unsettling event with a homeless man

Successful anti-trust attorney on the fast track to a partnership and big money has a dangerous and unsettling encounter with a homeless man that changes his life. The Street Lawyer, John Grisham Genre: General Fiction Published 1998, 384 pages In general, I find Grisham’s books very readable and this one was too. Michael and his surgeon wife Claire’s marriage is in trouble; they both work too many hours. While dealing with that issue in his life, Michael and several other lawyers at his big Washington D.C. law firm are held hostage at gun point by a homeless man. That event precipitates huge changes in Michael’s life as it makes him reevaluate everything he’s held dear. Michael goes after h

Sibling love, a broken family all revolved around The Dutch House.

The Dutch House, Ann Patchett Genre: General Fiction Published 2019, 337 pages Wow. This is one of the best sibling stories ever. AND, it's an excellent dysfunctional family story. Danny and Maeve, the brother and sister of the novel, (she's 7 years older) forge an unbreakable bond as they struggle through the abandonment by their mom, their dad's second wife, dad's death, and their effort to just survive. "The story of my sister was the only one I was ever meant to tell." An excited young man buys his family an elaborate, beautiful mansion as a surprise. A surprise his wife doesn't like and doesn't want, so she ultimately leaves the family. The dad withdraws from the kids and basically igno

A nonfiction ode to libraries, a bit of history and a mystery is our Buddy Read - The Library Book

An ode to libraries and a history of librarians, all tied together around the terrible fire at the LA Public Library where 400,000 books were burned. The Library Book, Susan Orlean Genre: Nonfiction Published 2018, 336 pages Terrie's Thoughts "In the library, time is dammed up—not just stopped but saved. The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever." This is the first in my goal of reading more non-fiction in 2019. And it was a good place to start. Ostensibly about the huge library fire in LA in 1986 in which over 400,000 books burned, it's really an in-depth look at librarie

A story of survival, resilience, and personal growth for a lonely young woman

as she strives to overcome a truly horrendous childhood. Eleanor is a closed-off, formal, socially awkward woman who makes a friend - and her world opens up. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman Genre: General Fiction Published 2018, 325 pages This book made me laugh out loud (a pretty rare occurrence when reading) and get teary (a more common occurrence) and made me think. I'm not sure how a book can be all over the internet and on my shelf for months and when I finally pick it up to read it, I had no real idea what it was about. And that's a good thing. And this is a good book. (warning: a quote-heavy review!) "After much reflection on the political and sociological aspects o

Underground Railroad: Two slaves flee the south using an actual underground railroad.

This engrossing book is the story of Cora and Caesar's journey - though it primarily focuses on Cora as she tries to escape her horrific life of slavery. The twist to this story is that the underground railroad is an actual functional railroad - under the ground. A little magical realism in play - and I like the way it was handled. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead Genre: Historical Fiction Awards: Pulitzer, National Book Award Published 2016, 306 pages I read this a while ago so some of the details are foggy, but the strength of the story and my memories of the novelty of an actual railroad convinced me this review, though short, is worth sharing. The writing style is simple, the e

A recap of the nonfiction read so far this year: memoirs to self help

In honor of Nonfiction November, and to satisfy my own curiosity, I took a look back at the nonfiction I've read so far this year. In January I set a mental goal to read more nonfiction - and I've accomplished that! My average number of nonfiction reads usually runs 2-4 books a year. I've read 12 so far this year and some have been real winners! It encourages me to continue this trajectory for next year. Do you struggle with "forcing" yourself to pick up a nonfiction, only to find it dry or boring or too technical? I've got some good recommendations for you here. I started the year off with a bang, reading one of Reese's book club recommendations, The Library Book (4.5 of 5 stars) by Susan O

A newlywed black couple, a wrongly convicted husband, big emotions: An American Marriage

What follows is a heartbreaking story of love, trust, and a marriage broken. An American Marriage, Tayari Jones Genre: General Fiction Published 2018, 308 pages "Human emotion is beyond comprehension, smooth and uninterrupted, like an orb made of blown glass." This book is SO beautifully written and explores so many conflicting emotions that I found myself pausing and rereading passages to absorb the language; I have so many quotes marked throughout the book! None of the hard life depicted is in my frame of reference - but isn't that part of why we read? To see an unexpected viewpoint, a new perspective, a different reality from our own? As the jacket explains, this is not your typical love

Buddy Read: A magical, creative fantasy, a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin

filled with strong female characters, a mystical wintery world and two young women who grow to be unlikely queens trying to save their kingdoms. Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik Award: Audie Award Fantasy Genre: Fantasy Published 2018, 466 pages Terrie's Thoughts A loose retelling - as in, there's a woman who can magically turn silver into gold (though not by spinning thread this time). But that's pretty much where the similarity ends. I actually had to go read a synopsis or two to remember any of the details of the original fairy tale. Magic abounds throughout the tale - there's a magical kingdom set in a frozen wintry mountain peopled with "ice" people and a very stern, icicle King. There's a

The Last Child: 13-year-old Johnny searches for missing twin sister while dealing with family issues

The Last Child (#1 Merrimon), John Hart Genre: General Fiction, Mystery Award: Edgar Published 2009, 373 pages He watched the grief take her down. It broke her at the waist. She splayed her hands on the ground, dug her fingers into soft earth. “Make it stop,” she whispered. Boy, this book just rips at your heart. Johnny’s family is torn apart after his twin sister goes missing. Then, a while later, his father leaves. Both Johnny and his mother are devastated by these two losses. His mother turns to pills and alcohol and gets involved with an abusive man who just tramples her into the ground, emotionally and physically. A year later Johnny is still hoping his Dad will come home and he continu

The Bookman's Tale: A mystery, a romance, a murder, a Shakespeare book found...

Did William Shakespeare really write all those plays himself or was it Christopher Marlowe, or someone else? One of literature's enduring speculations is creatively explored by Lovett. The Booksman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession, Charlie Lovett Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction Published 2013, 347 pages A good book-about-books story that was well written and informative about antiquarian booksellers and the question surrounding whether Shakespeare actually wrote everything attributed to him. Presented in 3 timelines, one in the 1700-1800s tracing the provenance of a potential Shakespearean book, one in the 1980s following the developing romance between Peter and his eventual wife, and 1995,

A mystery that isn't quite a mystery

A mystery that isn't quite a mystery as a man is accused of abducting a toddler and his wife sticks up for him while turning a blind eye to all the signs that he did it. The Widow (#1), Fiona Barton Genre: Mystery Published 2016, 324 pages This is Barton's first book and a good effort I think. Alternating between different participants in the drama, we get different perspectives - the detective, the reporter, the mom, and, of course, the widow. We learn of the detective's methods to settle on who took the toddler and his obsession with catching him. The reporter comes in a bit later and wants to break the "big" story. The mom of the abducted toddler has a small and annoyingly repetitive role

Reading Roundup - a review of books we reviewed in October

A smorgasbord of genres in this month's reviews - everything from mysteries to memoirs, some historical fiction and a love story to a faithful dog. You're sure to find something to read here! This month's Buddy Read was Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard which received mixed reviews from us. In addition, you might have missed one or two of these great suggestions: Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters - Imagine a world where the Civil War never happened and slavery is condoned by the US government. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle - a unicorn leaves her magical world in search of more like her. The River by Peter Heller - full of danger and adventure as two men race a wildfire and men down a r

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© Bookshelf Journeys, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terrie Purkey and Bookshelf Journeys with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.   2019

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