TODAY I updated my Reading Log and filled in titles on my 2022 challenges. To my delight, I discovered I had FINISHED the Novel Challenge to read 22 novels from January to December. Actually, to date I have read 26 novels.
Here they are in the order I read them:
Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz, the sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe/Summer by Edith Wharton, which I also used for the “What’s in a Name reading challenge and could have used for the Classics Club / Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac, a novel in verse which I read for the Cybil’s judging/ The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, a lovely literary love story/ Interior China Town by Charles Yu, which was a book club selection for my Page Turners book club/ The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington, which taught me a great deal about Buddhism / The Van Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant, a sweet, gentle story/ The Dependents by Katherine Dion, a contemporary novel/ The Paris Library, based on the brave people who kept the Paris Library open during the occupation of Germany in WWII, told in novel form/ Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristin Higgins, an author I have come to seek out/ The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Bully, a YA novel and a thriller/ Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, also used for The Classics Club/ The City We Became by N.K. Jeminsin, my new favorite sci-fi novel and the first in a series I look forward to reading / Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell, a book that taught me what fan fiction was/ French Braid by Anne Tyler, one of my favorite authors/ Welcome to the School by the Sea by Jenny Colgan, a YA novel about a British boarding school/ The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, also used for The Classics Club and a Third Tuesday Book Club selection / The Children Act by Ian McEwan, first read then watched the film version/ Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson, a thriller that had me holding my breath/ At Least You Have Your Health by Madi Sinha, a women’s novel/ Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland, an audio Book about Books/ Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly, the prequel to Lilac Girls, which I read last year/ Book Lovers by Emily Henry, a novel about the publishing industry/ Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx, the only disappointment on this list/ The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, a novel narrated by a Book/ Arcadia by Lauren Groff about Hippies on a commune in the 70s.
Whew! That’s a lot of fine reading! What a good feeling to have one challenge finished for this year. Stay tuned to find out the total number of novels read in 2022.
A book that “almost didn’t seem real,” which was one of our book club selections, was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
The hero of this story goes through such physical and mental torment and torture that it makes the reader’s jaw drop to know he survived. Overcoming obstacles always makes a good story, but such massive, real ones makes this book my choice for nonfiction that “almost doesn’t seem real.”
I was unaware of this 2020 publication until my blogging friend Carla reviewed in on Carla Loves to Read. I had read Olive Kitteridge, Strout’s introduction to this character as a Third-Tuesday book club selection some time ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. In that novel, Olive was a middle-aged junior high math teacher, who reminded me of many math teachers during my time teaching in junior high. She is one of my favorite literary characters.
“Prickly, witty, resistant to change, yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic”, in the sequel, Olive Kitteridge struggles to understand others and herself. If nothing else, she is resilient. Themes of aging, loss, loneliness, and love are what Olive is dealing with now that she is an old woman.Olive’s story is set in Cosby, Maine, and as often is the case with Strout, she deals with “ordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people.” I found the New England setting interesting, coming from Virginia and now living on the Texas Gulf Coast, and agree with one critic who says of Strout, She “startle[s] us, move[s], and inspire[s] us [with] moments of transcendent grace.” It is a well-written novel and a darned good read/listen.
This 1992 publication is by the author of a novel selected by my Third Tuesday book club, The Goldfinch, and is one I enjoyed a great deal this summer. it is “compelling, elegant, dramatic, and playful.” Tartt’s History tells the story of a group of college students who are “clever, eccentric, misfits,” which includes themes of obsession, corruption, and betrayal.” It is one of the most suspenseful books I have ever read, a psychological thriller that had me holding my breath at points in the narrative. Many literary allusions grace the novel’s pages, something that held great appeal for this lit major.
It is a mystery that is solved at the beginning, then it unfolds and reveals as the narrative moves along, a “different” type of murder mystery in this respect. Above all else, it is a page-turning, darned good read. I highly recommend it.
Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan, published in 2017 discusses “post-Katrina (Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans around 2005) relocation and renewal.”
The story is told from Evangeline’s point of view and involves her sister, Mandy and the other members of her family. Mandy is dying to be crowned an Orange Queen in the popular Bayou Perdue parade. Evangeline is a queen of another parade (her first time at winning a title), but she is an unwilling Shrimp Queen.
Hurricane Katrina makes a direct hit on Bayou Perdue, wiping out the town. Fortunately, Evangeline and her family evacuate in time and stay with a relative. As the plot progresses, the family is split apart, some wanting to stay with the relative, others wanting to re-start their life in Bayou Perdue.
Bittersweet emotions emerge as the story revolves around teen romance and other teen issues: underage drinking, friendships and loyalties, betrayal, and “mean girls.” The author, through Evangeline, expresses a strong love of nature, the bayous of Louisiana and its wildlife. When Evangeline and her father are out on their boat, the reader can “see” the surrounding environment.
Full of “richly drawn characters,” this YA novel proves that “not even a hurricane can defeat the human heart.” It is a darned good read.
This 2019 publication is an “unforgettable story about a sleepy southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.” When I saw this “teaser,” I definitely wanted to read the book. Anything that is about the magic of books is right up my alley.
Sarah Dove is the librarian of Dove Pond, North Carolina’s public library, a member of the town’s founding family, The Doves, and the “charmer” mentioned in the title. Dove Pond “has seen better days,” in fact, is dying, and Sarah is looking for someone to save it. The books, who have “spoken” to her since childhood, tell her that savior has arrived.
Enter Grace Wheeler, a “displaced city girl.” Is she the savior that Dove Pond so desperately needs? Can Grace rescue Dove Pond? Does she even want to? Known to some as “The Dragon Lady,” Grace moves into town with her foster mother, “Mama G” and her niece, Daisy in tow, on the same block as Sarah, and right next door to Trav, an unlikely love interest. With this mix and the town’s resentment of Grace as city manager, fireworks are bound to happen!
I read this book on my Kindle, and I found that I am enjoying reading electronically almost as much as handling a physical book. That’s progress for me! HCC, His Holiness’s Cat, aka Snow Lion contemplates the question, “What makes cats purr?” As a matter of fact, she meditates on purring, an act of joy, contentment and satisfaction through the whole book. Interestingly enough, there are many reasons cats purr, and HCC enlightens us with anecdotes for all the different ones. As she instructs us, we get to explore Buddhism’s views on happiness.
Told from the cat’s point of view, the story examines the deep-down happiness seen more in cats than in other animals. Michie, through his intriguing plot and developing characters warns us, the readers, about the “perils of self-obsession.” Besides the setting of the Dali Lama’s palace, the author creates The Himalaya Book Cafe, where HCC spends a great deal of her time when the Dali Lama is away and where she discovers a Karmic connection in this second book.
As one critic says, the book is filled with “wisdom, warmth, and a touch of mischief.”
TUESDAY TEASER, a meme hosted by The Purple Booker allows all readers to copy a line or several lines from what you are currently reading in order to “tease” another reader/blogger into reading the same book.
Since my March trip to NYC was cancelled, I returned to Elizabeth Gilbert’s (The “G” of my alphabet challenge) to copy a few lines from where I am reading now. The protagonist is describing to a young relative the scene where she, her mother, and her father received news of her brother’s death during WWIII.
“Walter’s death utterly shocked me.
I swear to you, Angela, I’d never considered for a minute that my brother could be harmed or killed in the war…He’d always been so competent, so powerful…What harm could ever befall him?”
The novel is a fascinating one that begins after WWI and now, on page 346, a great deal has happened to “our girl”, and she is ready to return to New York with her eccentric Aunt Peg, a sadder and hopefully wiser woman.