Books Read in 2017
The Horse and His Boy by C.S.
Some have said this is their favorite book of the series, but I just didn't get into the war and with all the weird names it was difficult to figure out who was who and which land was which. (I did chuckle at the place called Stormness and wonder if C.S. Lewis was paying homage to the Orkney town of Stromness.)
The Restaurant Critic's Wife by
It was a nice break from the tales of Narnia, and it was a quick read, but nothing I would rave about.
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
The tale of Alec Ramsey and the wild stallion who is shipwrecked on a deserted island with him, the tale of the development of their unlikely friendship, their rescue, finding a home for a wild stallion in Flushing, NY, and the Black's ultimate race against the two fastest horses in the country was just as gripping to me today as it was more than 50 years ago. But, I don't think it's for Bri.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis
This is apparently the real start of the Narnia stories, where four kids accidentally discover an entrance through the back of a wardrobe into a magical world of wizards and witches, of Aslan the Lion, the god figure, of centaurs and giants. They have many adventures, good and bad. There are lots of Bible parallels in the book, some more blatant than others. In the end, the kids return to the wardrobe, just seconds after they first entered Narnia. Magic! So now on to Book 3 and getting ready to discuss the series with my granddaughter (and others).
Lewis frequently breaks the book equivalent of the 4th wall, stopping to make comments to the reader. Not sure how I feel about that, but I did smile when he said something about how if he wrote what really happened, their parents wouldn't let them read the book!
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
This book introduces us to the magic other world that two children find thanks to a discovery by Digory's uncle and the magic rings that whisk them back and forth between world. We meet Aslan, the "god" of the other world and get to witness the big bang there, we learn the powers of the magic apple tree and the temptations of the evil witch to eat the apple (does sound a bit familiar!) Apparently this book is the prequel to the real story of Narnia, which begins with "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," which I will be starting today.
Lewis' powers of description are wonderful and again, I wish I could write like that!
Silent Footsteps by Sally Henderson
On the Amazon review of one reader, I chose NOT to read the epilog and leave things as they were when Sally and Jer left Zimbabwe and not read what is apparently a depressing tale of how things were when they returned several years later.
The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill
Twenty years later Bryson decided to revisit his old haunts and see how things are now. I started this book a long time ago and then got distracted and didn't get back to it until this week. The almost unanimous negative reviews on Amazon tell me maybe why I set it aside. I enjoy Bryson and I did enjoy this book, but it lacked the joi de vivre that I have found in his previous books (and I have read most of them). There are still a lot of snickers, a lot of interesting bits, a lot of "OMG--I didn't know that!" but seen through the eyes of an aging travel writer who is upset that things aren't as charming as they used to be and that quaint villages now have Starbucks and wifi.
Don't get me wrong--I enjoyed this book. I just didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.
Are You Anybody?: A Memoir by Jeffrey
I was sorry that I never watched Arrested Development or The Garry Sanders Show (his break out role, after years on Broadway and smaller roles elsewhere), so I had to stop reading and go to Netflix and find Arrested Development and watch a few episodes to get an idea of who this George Bluth character was.
But the most fascinating part of the book was learning how he created the character of Maura Pfefferman, retired college professor, who finally admits to his family that he identifies as female. How Tambor, self-described as a cis-male, learns about gender identity and how Maura feels as she goes through her transition is brilliant. The show, while billed as a comedy, is not so much a comedy as it is a slice of life, with funny parts to it. The book itself is delightful.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Reading this in 2017 is doubly chilling because the society that has formed doesn't seem so dystopian any more, and seems a real possibility unless someone does prevents the developing totalitarian theocracy.
The Rage of Plum Blossom by Charlotte
Quinn Jones is an attorney living the good life with her successful businessman husband Jordan Chang in a high rise New York apartment. One morning she goes off to work and then receives word that her husband has committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of their apartment. As she begins to adjust and look at the evidence, she becomes convinced that this was not a suicide, but a murder. The book traces her search for Jordan's killer, the people she meets along the way who help her, the surprising revelations she uncovers about Jordan's life before she met him, and in the process she begins to come to peace with her husband's death and the special surprise he left for her to give her a reason to go on.
This was an enjoyable light read, with some cliché moments, but mostly kept my interest throughout.
The Guilty by David Baldacci
A Long Road Home: A Memoir by Saroo
Tupelo by Alec Clayton
Whenever I finish an Alec Clayton novel I again suspect that this good ol' boy raised in the South is secretly a Russian author. His novels are filled with so many characters -- many of whom are called by more than one, or even more than two different names -- that you might as well be reading Dostoyevsky. Ah...but Dostoyevsky wasn't as much fun. The problems with this cast of thousands and the episodic nature of the story is that it becomes difficult to care about any one person. This is the story of a town and its residents, particularly the friends of the narrator, Kevin, who is the identical twin to Evan and with whom he has a life-long love-hate relationship. It follows the kids through the segregated 50s and the tumultuous 60s and the beginning of the civil rights era. It shows events through the eyes of kids, who were kinda sorta aware of what was going on, but not really.
What keeps you going is Clayton's style, which flows beautifully. His descriptions are fun to read. And if I have any real complaint it is that as a professional writer and newsman, he really, really should have had a better proofreader. Too many really sloppy grammar and spelling mistakes ("site" when he means "sight", "Evan and I" when he means "Evan and me.") There aren't a lot of these mistakes (and most occur in the last quarter of the book), but enough to make me cringe when I stumble on them.
I want to grow hair, I want to grow up, I want to go to Boise by Erma Bombeck
I was so depressed about tomorrow's inauguration when I got to the book store, I was slightly nauseous. I decided I needed to read something light to take my mind off of things. Then I saw Erma Bombeck's book on the humor shelf. Who better to cheer me up than Erma? Well, this book about kids and cancer wasn't exactly the funny book I expected, but it wasn't really a downer either. The title refers to what a child, suffering from cancer, said were his/her three wishes.
Bombeck was approached to write an upbeat book about children with cancer. She wasn't sure she could do it until she visited a camp for children with cancer and got to know them. What she has written reminds me of the book "When Someone You Love Has Cancer," by DanaRae Pomeroy. You get to "know" kids with cancer, you get to know their parents, you get a sense of the joy and the tragedy, and you get a feel for how someone who cares can help -- what to do and what not to do. Not Bombeck's usual belly laughs, but a wonderfully thought out and written book (I would have expected nothing less of my hero). And I didn't think of Donald Trump all afternoon.
Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
His travels take him far and wide, from his home in Florida to Iceland to India, to Qatar. No, he didn't discover that happiness was to be found in his own backyard, but he did learn how relative it is and what is happy to one person may not be to another (given the choice of spending eternity in Iceland or in Hell, for example, Iceland natives chose Hell because at least they would be warm!). He discovered that wealthy people were no happier than poor people, as a general rule. He found that the key to happiness was the camaraderie of friends and relatives, and a feeling of love in your life.
He did find Moldova the most unhappy place of all those he visited, and he seems to have found the greatest happiness in Bhutan. He received hate mail from Moldovans after his book came out so maybe they just hide their joy very well. It did take me forever to finish this book, not because it was not interesting but because somehow I never sat to actually finish it. I'm glad I did, tho. It was a fun read and I learned a lot about some countries around the world.
by Evan Placey
Dean's monologue about tolerance before the school board is powerful and poignant and nicely sums up the whole point of the play.
Minutes by Jodi Picoult
While the story was good, it just seemed overly long, at 500 pages. The middle section seemed to drag on and on. The story centers around Peter, youngest son growing up in the shadow of his talented older brother and bullied by classmates his entire life. The brother's death in an accident was a terrible trauma for all, and when the bullying escalates, Peter finally loses it, takes a gun and runs rampant throughout the school, killing several of his classmates.
Also important are Josie Cormier, daughter of Alex, the judge who will be assigned to the case, and girlfriend of Matt, one of the shooting victims. Josie was once Peter's friend, but had turned her back on him when she became Matt's girl, but her testimony may help gets Peter a lighter sentence under a 'battered wife' defense, the first use of such a defense in a bullying case.
This is a study in how a small town is torn apart when a tragedy likes this takes place, examines bullying and its effect on the victim, and looks at the emotional effect of friendships. The ending came out of the blue and was completely unexpected.
Now I'm going to have to check out Ann Patchett!