READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!

Book Number 23

Summer People

summer people

by 

 

Elin Hilderbrand

 

The setting for this novel is Nantucket where Beth has spent every summer at her family’s rambling cottage on the beach. When her husband, a New York attorney, is killed in a plane crash,  Beth is left with their seventeen-year-old twins, Winnie and Garrett. They retreat to Nantucket to heal over the summer. To fulfill her husband’s wishes, Beth also invites Marcus, another teenager whose case her husband had been defending.

The summer they had intended to be a quiet time to grieve together is filled with pain, conflict, first love, and the uncovering of a secret that could destroy the family.

Hilderbrand evokes the feel of the island and easily placed me there in the cottage with her family. Her characters are well developed and evoke sympathy as we witness the way they each try to cope with their situations.

This book has conflict, poignancy, romance, conflict, and mystery.  I anticipated a sugary, feel-good story, but the outcome for each of the characters was much more realistic.

An easy, interesting read.

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READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!

Book No: 22

Product Details

Know the Mother

by 

Desiree Cooper

 

Know the Mother by Desiree Cooper is part of the Made in Michigan Writers Series and was chosen by the Detroit Free Press as one of the best Michigan reads for 2017.

This is a collection of short short stories (some could be called flash fiction) which provide reflections on mothers and daughters. Nearly every story deals with loss—some physical, some psychological. Some of the stories end on a hopeful note, many on a note of despair or grieving. Some deal with poverty and racism. All are beautifully constructed.

I found Ms. Cooper’s writing impressive. She provides great detail and emotion with few words. Her characters are real women in real situations who often choose to buck up under their circumstances or move on to face whatever consequences lie before them.

In exploring many aspects of womanhood, as daughter, mother, lover, wife, employee, friend, this small book makes a big impact.

 

READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!

Book No: 21

Train Dreams

by 

Denis Johnson

 

Robert Grainier’s life began in 1886 and ended in 1968. The novella by Denis Johnson follows Robert from his troubled childhood when he is sent by train out West to live with relatives he doesn’t know. He leads a hard-scrabble life during changing times. He works as a lumberer and a hauler. Determined to start over when he loses his wife and daughter he returns to the ruins of the home he had built for them.

Robert is a man of few words and, because of his stoic personality, it is hard to feel his emotion but there is a good sense of it. His actions speak of his affection and mourning for his wife and daughter.  There is a mystical element to the story which the reader could interpret in several ways.

Johnson gives a good view of life in the Northwest at the turn of the century and the changes that Robert witnesses. He takes a ride in an airplane and decides that isn’t for him. He uses the train and horses for transportation long after the advent of the automobile. He views the changing landscape of the land and is more accepting than embracing of change.

Johnson’s writing style is lean and entertaining.

Train Dreams is the winner of the National Book Award.

READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!

Product DetailsBook No: 19

My Name is Cynthia: I’m More Than Special Needs

by

Sally Birch

 

This “memoir” of a woman with developmental disabilities is written by her mother, Sally Birch, but as if Cynthia herself is the narrator. We follow Cynthia from birth, to discovery of her difficulty, through childhood, adulthood, various living arrangements, and hospitalizations over a span of fifty-five years.

The language is simple and direct and at first, I was a bit distracted by the childlike voice employing words and describing situations which a child would not know or understand. But overall, I liked the narrative technique because it focused on Cynthia’s feelings and provides a perspective we don’t often hear.

Cynthia is delightful as a child and basks in the love of her family. She’s friendly and plucky but often frustrated with difficulty expressing her needs. Her mother is a strong advocate and really listens to what Cynthia is trying to convey.

The book gives a good overview of the problems a person with developmental disabilities and psychotic disorders must face. It also reveals the many happy moments Cynthia experiences in her life. Her affection for and from family is evident.

Sally Birch does a good job of describing Cynthia’s challenges, the effects of medication, her periodic descents into psychosis, and her quest to be treated as “normal.”

My Name is Cynthia is an enlightening and touching story.

READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!

                                             Book Number: 18

Loving Day: A Novel by [Johnson, Mat]                  Loving Day

                           by 

                  Mat Johnson

 

Warren Duffy, a biracial (Irish/African American) man, is light skinned but identifies as a black man. After returning to the dilapidated mansion inherited from his father, he meets his seventeen-year-old daughter, a girl conceived in his youth. Her mother, a Jewish woman, is deceased. Tal leaves her grandfather and moves in with Warren.

He wants to do the right thing as a father and also wants her to learn about her ethnicity. They become involved in a school whose goal is to teach its students to embrace their mixed-race identities. As Tal becomes more and more influenced by the school, Warren becomes more doubtful. He plots to take her away, the campus moves to his property and he must figure out how to gain his daughter’s trust and resolve his own personal problems.

This novel is populated with quirky characters (including vague ones–are they ghosts? are they trespassing crackheads? are they real?) who employ unique means of getting what they want.

Johnson’s writing is entertaining, intelligent, and often humorous. Although the plot sometimes strays beyond what is realistic, Johnson makes excellent points about racism, ethnic identity, parenthood, and self-discovery.

Except for some repetitiveness, I enjoyed this book.

*Loving Day is celebrated on June 12 to commemorate the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia which struck down all laws banning interracial marriage.

 

 

Reader’s Log 2017: 50 Books

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!

Book Number: 17

                   

Lilac Girls: A Novel by [Kelly, Martha Hall]

      

 Lilac Girls

                  

   by

   Martha Hall Kelly

 

This is a well researched, well-written story told from the perspective of three women.

Socialite and former actress, Caroline volunteers at the French consulate in New York City during World War 2.

Kasia, a Polish teenager becomes involved in the underground resistance and, along with her sister and mother, is sent to Ravensbruck, the Nazi concentration camp for women.

Herta, a German doctor struggling for acceptance as a surgeon, takes a job in Ravensbruck and finds herself ensnared in the Nazi system.

The characters in this story (based on actual events) are well drawn. I found myself admiring Caroline’s desire to help the French people and especially her later efforts to help Kasia and other women who had been subjected to experimental medical procedures at the camp. Through Caroline, we are introduced to upper-class society during the era. Her snarky friends provide humorous relief with their opinions about some of the wealthy people (again, actual people whose names you will recognize.)   I found her relationship with Paul, an actor who seems to want it all, as frustrating to me as it possibly was to her.

I  admired Kasia’s courageousness and ingenuity and related to her self-doubts. Once free from the concentration camp, Kasia is unable to give up the past and move on with her life. She wants things to be the way they were before the war, but that cannot happen. Kasia carries both physical and mental scars that will not heal.

Herta is an especially intriguing character. I sympathized with her early struggles but had difficulty understanding how she could later justify the horrific actions she takes. To the end, she remains unmoved.

The details in this story are heart-rending and very complete. Martha Hall Kelly is masterful at conveying ideas and pictures without belaboring the point. Sometimes a simple sentence of hers evokes an entire scene and emotion.

Lilac Girls is intriguing, sometimes harrowing, always interesting, and a story that stays with you.

 

 

 

READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!

Book NThe River, A Novel   -     By: Michael Neale
umber 16:

The River

by

Michael Neale

This is a quick, simple read about a young boy named Gabe who witnesses the tragic death of his father and cannot shake the trauma caused by the life changing event.

Eventually, he is drawn to The River where he finds acceptance, peace, understanding, and adventure.

Although a heartwarming story which is allegorical, I found it predictable and unevenly written. Perhaps some of the events would seem less contrived if the author had developed the plot to explain the circumstances in more detail.

There were some lovely descriptions of the wilderness and the river as well as white river rafting. The story’s tension was mostly centered on Gabe’s anger and fears. He seldom takes action to resolve his own issues and is not a very strong character. The story also left many questions that could have been explored to flesh out the thin plot. What had happened between Gabes’ parents? Why didn’t Jacob, who claimed he always wanted a relationship with Gabe, seek him out?

The characters were nicely portrayed, though somewhat one-dimensional, and sometimes “preachy.” Every one of them seemed to be on Gabe’s side, except Gabe himself.

If you like a quick, sentimental read you will probably like The River.