CHALLENGE UPDATE

ONE OF MY 2022 READING CHALLENGES WAS TO READ 22 NOVELS IN 2022

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.

Novels are one of my main passions. At one time in my life, I read ONLY 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.

Thanks to Evin for my elegant sign off.

TITANS by Lelia Meachan: A Review

This stunning novel set in Texas is a Wonderful read.

Titans is set in the late 1800s, early 1900s Texas, on the cusp of the industrial revolution. It deals with “long-hidden secrets, enduring bonds, and redemption.” Samantha Gordon, heiress to Las Tres Lomas cattle ranch is as modern as any young lady of the age; it is her father who must adjust to such new contraptions as the telephone or fall by the wayside as progress advances.

Nathan Holloway, a sweet-natured farm boy in far North Texas discovers a startling fact about his birth and his heritage; his father regrets keeping secrets from his son and is afraid he will lose him.

The two families are connected, unbeknownst to the two central characters.

It is a “heart-felt, big-canvas story,” reminiscent of Giant and other “classic” Texas tales involving cattle ranching and Big Oil. Plenty of twists and turns keep the reader turning pages as the story unfolds. It is a darned good read.

(Titans is the sequel to Roses, but I read Titans as a stand alone and was perfectly fine with it.)

I have not read this first book yet, but may choose it in the future to learn the backstory of the characters I met in Titans.

FOR A NOVEL AS BIG AS THE STATE OF TEXAS, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND TITANS.

THANKS EVIN

THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON: A Review

A delightful book set in WWII, my favorite kind of historical fiction

Set in a bookshop, London during the blitz, a touch of romance, a touch of tears, plenty of light, good-natured humor, and more–what more could one ask for in a good “read”? Oh, yes, the audio version–that too. This was an exceptionally fulfilling reading experience for me. It was just the diversion I needed from the scheduling of doctor’s appointments and tests, a welcome respite from the tedium of “getting well.” The novel was published in 2021, and I first heard of it on Deb Nance’s Readerbuzz.

Martin has written a “timeless story of wartime loss, love, and the enduring power of literature.” It is modeled on one of the few bookshops left standing after the London Blitz.

Grace Bennett finds herself clerking at a bookshop under the proverbial curmudgeon owner, when she and her best friend leave their country life and head to London, just in time for the war to begin. Grace is not much of a reader herself, but is introduced to The Count of Monte Cristo by a handsome customer who joins the RAF shortly after he meets Grace. When Grace begins this classic, she is caught up in its pageantry and action and goes on to other classics under the benign approval of Primrose Hill Bookshop’s gruff owner. During the unfolding of the plot, Grace discovers the joys of reading, even reading to the community from the bookshop and during the long nights spent in the tunnels and shelters inhabited during the bombings. The two girls share many wartime adventures, sometimes being forced to share them through letters, and the book comes to the end of the war and a happy ending for all. This is a most satisfying read/listen. I enjoyed it immensely.

Grace’s conversion from being indifferent to books to becoming an avid reader might look something like this word cloud.
Thanks, Evin

THE BOOK CHARMER by Karen Hawkins: A Review

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!

TUESDAY TEASER

2nd in series

My Tuesday Teaser is from the second book in The Dali Lama’s Cat series, The Art of Purring.

“And me dear reader?…Chogyal’s death (one of the monks) has been an urgent reminder: Life is finite: every day is precious. And simply to wake up in good health truly is a blessing, because sickness and death can strike at a moment’s notice.”

Profound thoughts (from a cat ) are throughout the entire book, which explains Buddha’s teachings from HHC, His Holiness’s Cat.

TUESDAY TEASER

Have I got a Tuesday Teaser for you! It is from the series of road trips Otto takes with his guru-priest friend, the world-renowned Rinpoche, translated “The Precious One.” In Breakfast with Buddha, we meet Otto and his family, his sister, Cecelia, who has always been a hippie-flower child, and her boyfriend, Rinpoche, who discusses for mile after mile Buddhist teachings as Otto tries to show him the “real America.” In Lunch with Buddha, Rinpoche and Ceilia are married and have a daughter. Finally, Dinner with Buddha , the book I am currently reading

Third book in the series.

brings in Rinpoche and Celia’s six-year-old-daughter, Otto’s niece ,with whom he feels he shares a destiny. My Teaser takes place somewhere in the Dakotas just before Ceciluia and Shelsha leave Otto and Rinpoche, returning home while the men travel towards enlightenment and what their mission in life is. Otto thinks about the America he is about to show Rinpoche:

“I worried that with our demonizing, our knee-jerk anger, we were moving too close to 1920s Germany, too many of us marching under a righteous banner, too much hatred for each other, too much divisiveness, a craziness loosed upon our world. I looked at Shelsa. I remembed what Seese (his nickname for his sister) said about her (that she was a special child with a destiny to save mankind from itself). I wondered what it would take to save us.”

GOOD LUCK WITH THAT by Kristan Higgins: A Review

One of my reading goals for 2020 is to read 20 books recommended by fellow bloggers. Carla at Carla Loves to Read wrote a review of what sounded like the perfect summer beach read. Thanks to COVID 19, I did not feel safe going to the beach, but this novel turned out to be the perfect escape from all the stress and worry going on right now.

Publisher’s Weekly calls Good Luck9780451489395 “…a powerful story that feels completely real,” and indeed, the characters seemed like old friends telling their stories by the end of the book. Not to be taken totally lightly, this 2018 publication deals with the “emotionally charged issues of body acceptance and health.” It begins with three friends on their last day of “fat camp,” a place where they’d been sent each summer to try to lose weight since they were thirteen.  At eighteen, this is the last summer of their eligibility, and they made a list of what they would do when they were thin. Emerson, the “dreamy one,” and the heaviest, truly obese, spirals into a sad life as a “fat girl” and becomes a morbidly obese woman who dies from complications of her obesity and leaves everything to her friends, Georgia and Marley with the instructions to do everything on the list they made at 18–NOW! What ensues changes the women’s lives forever.

The emotions and attitudes toward being overweight are wonderfully presented in this novel. For example, look at this passage, “True peace was rare when you were fat. When you were fat, you wore armor to protect and deflect…when you were fat, you worked hard to be invisible. You lived in fear of being noticed, singled out, of having someone point out what you already know, YOU’RE FAT,”

I expected Georgia and Marley to miraculously “mend their ways” and eating habits, become thin, and live happily ever after. That simply did not happen. What happened instead is that the women changed their eating habits to healthy ones and changed their attitudes towards themselves, towards their families, and toward food and eating in general as they lived the lives that Emerson wished for them. The novel had a realistic but very satisfactory ending.

THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY by Heidi W. Durrow: A Review

This 2010 publication won the Bellwether Prize for fiction (an award featuring social justice) that year. It could be categorized as a YA novel, but it had great appeal to me as an adult reader. The heroine, Rachel, whose unusual blue eyes are often mentioned, is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I.

After the family tragedy that happened in Chicago, which defines the rest of her life, she goes to live with her grandmother (on her father’s side) in Portland. The novel deals with the issue of whether Rachel is “black” or “white”–she doesn’t fit in with either. A parallel story finds Jamie, later known as “Bricks,” who lived in the apartment projects where Rachel’s family “ended,” leaving her the only survivor. Jamie is a witness to the tragic event.

The story unfolds, layer by layer, with anecdotes about each of the main characters alternately, until they meet serendipitously near the end, and Jamie helps Rachel find her identity–herself.  Rachel’s quest and ability to overcome great loss testify as to the strength of her character and her tenaciousness. Jamie is also an overcomer, and the adding of his strength to Rachel’s allows the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, which is the plot, to fit together in a satisfying way.  Durrow writes a poignant story which makes the reader sigh as she reads the last words.

A SHOUT OUT TO JAMES J. CUDNEY, BLOGGER AND AUTHOR EXTRADONAIRE

I have just finished listening to a 2017 audio book, Beartown, by Fredrik Backman which was recommended to me by blogging friend, James J. Cudney of This Is My Truth Now, one of my favorite blogs that I follow. I recently reviewed his debut novel,Watching Glass Shatter, on both this site and my “accidental blog,” blogging807.wordpress.com. I gave his novel a 5 out of 5 points, and have been recommending it to all my discerning reader friends who want a “good read” to give to someone for Christmas (after reading it themselves first, of course). I have told people that they will love the characterization skills James demonstrates as he deals with the members of the Glass family, all flawed characters, but unforgettable, and ones we can relate to. Cudney weaves the braid of the  family’s dynamics and relationships from the individual complexities of each character, none of whom we fail to care about. He has mentioned in his blog that he will make an announcement on This Is My Truth Now early in 2018 as to whether there will be a sequel.  I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed and will be first in line to purchase a copy!

Reading a Classic, Slaughter House Five: A Review

I was sure I had read this book back in 1969 when it was first published; in fact, I told someone I had.  This was not true.  I have read so many things about it, that I thought I’d read it.  Kurt Vonnegut’s semi-autobiographical, satirical novel deals with time travel and experiences during WWII.  It is strange, but strangely appealing.

Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist is not an appealing person.  In his PSTD and mental state, he thinks and recalls vividly that he had been abducted by the Tralfmadorians, beings from another planet. Pilgrim’s life journey, reflective of Pilgrim’s Progress, journeys through life and through time and recounts his experiences to the reader.  Some are quite believable, like living through the bombing of Dresden, others are not. Seeing a great many deaths of both friends and enemies and relatives, Billy Pilgrim accepts the philosophy of, “so it goes.”  He applies this to deaths of thousands as he does to those individuals ( like his wife) who are close to him . He is not actually pathetic, but neither is he charismatic…merely mundane .

One can not say he/she “enjoyed reading” the book, but it is a literary experience that I would recommend.