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: 35

Are You Ready?!

by 

Marilyn Jones

This little book of poems and reminiscences was written by Marilyn Jones, a friend to many in Schoolcraft, Michigan. The title reflects Marilyn’s adventurous spirit. Whenever anyone invites her to visit, explore, and play she is ready!

The poems cover a wide range of topics but are mostly taken from everyday life. They are written in simple words with lines that rhyme. Marilyn says she doesn’t want anyone to wonder at the meaning. But that doesn’t mean they don’t provoke thoughts. Each one leaves me with a smile or a poignant truth to ponder.

The reader will learn a lot about Marilyn and will receive bits of wisdom and advice that help through life. I enjoyed learning about her past and remembering some of the ways we lived long ago. Her stories of her children and grandchildren are filled with love and pride and many set a good example on how to raise a family with love, encouragement, and fun.

Marilyn’s sense of humor brings many laughs. Her poem “Tiny but Powerful” about a hummingbird is lovely but starts to border on schmaltzy. Then bam! Marilyn injects humor and it ends on just the right note.

The prose pieces are equally interesting. Some, such as “Potential for Disaster” and “Graduation Day” are very touching warnings of how life can change in an instant. “Max and Grandma do the County Fair, 2003” reflects on the simple joys of spending time with a loved one. “Underpinnings in the 20th Century” is a fun, informative look at women’s fashion (socks and underwear) through the years.

“Are You Ready?!” is a sweet reminder to savor life.

 

 

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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 Number: 34

Product Details

 

The Woman in Cabin 10

by

Ruth Ware

I’ve been trying to read a few more mystery-thriller type books since I’d like to try my hand at writing a fun mystery with quirky characters. Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 is a popular book and a best seller. I did a quick check on Amazon and found that it had a score of 3.8 stars (out of 5) and about 2400 positive reviews and 1400 critical reviews. Here’s my take:

Premise: Lo, a writer for a travel magazine, is invited on the maiden voyage of a very small luxury ship. She thinks a woman in the next cabin has been murdered and thrown overboard. When she reports it all the evidence of the woman’s existence is gone and no one else has any idea who she’s talking about. Good set up for a mystery.

Setting: The luxury ship is perfect in every way. Beautifully appointed, expertly staffed, exquisite meals and amenities. It’s a confined area populated with intriguing characters and a limit to suspects. The ship is sailing from England to Scandinavia. It’s in international waters and the internet service isn’t working which complicates matters. The setting is well described.

Characters: The main character, Lo Blacklock, drinks a lot, tends toward paranoia, suffers from anxiety, and jumps to conclusions. In short, she is not appealing and I think that has been the main complaint readers have had about this novel.  For the most part, the characters are well described and I got a sense of who they were even from Lo’s viewpoint.

Plot: Lo tries to prove she isn’t crazy and that something happened on the ship. Eventually, she finds out and it gets her in deep trouble. The story turns from who dun it to one of terror. I liked the twists and turns of the plot, but Lo’s reactions were a bit drawn out. I got how she felt and didn’t need it repeated numerous times.

Resolution: Everything is explained. I’m not good at solving mysteries, but I suspected all along that Lo was suspicious of the wrong person. And I had an inkling about what really happened, but I wasn’t sure until the truth was revealed.

Lots of twists and turns in the plot and most of it was very dramatic. It’s a good story and kept my attention, but it would have been more effective if the main character/narrator was more likable and spent less time talking about how she felt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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: 33  Commonwealth by [Patchett, Ann]

Commonwealth 

by 

Ann Patchett

This book left me with mixed feelings. I love Ann Patchett’s writing style. She has an eye for detail and a wonderful way of expressing what she sees. Her characters are real and I felt a part of each setting. For example, the opening chapter takes place in the 1960’s. Patchett does not tell us this, but the entire scene feels like the era.

This story is about two families, the Cousins and Keatings, who are joined through divorce and remarriage. There are two sets of parents and six children, but the blended family is far from the Brady Bunch. The relationships are complex, full of confusion, distrust, mutual support, love, jealousy—a realistic view of what happens when two families combine and are then affected by a tragedy. The novel spans fifty years and reveals choices the characters make and how each event influences those that follow.

Although I loved the writing I found the disjointed jumping around from character to character, setting to setting, and era to era a bit jarring and like a jigsaw puzzle. There were many characters and keeping them straight was sometimes a challenge. Some minor characters were dropped into the story, drew my interest, and then were forgotten. I wanted to hear their stories, too.

I was disappointed by the ending. This novel was more an exploration of relationships and, perhaps, the randomness of life’s events. I usually like a story that leaves me wondering what might have happened next, but in this case, I was left feeling that nothing was going to happen next. That the story, if continued, would tell of many people rambling through life.

I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a good wordsmith and likes stories about relationships. If you prefer a plot-driven novel, you might find the lack of chronology, the number of characters, and the general lack of a concrete plot not to your liking.

 

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: 32

Product DetailsThe Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

by

Lisa See

 

 

 

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane has everything I like in a novel. The characters were believable, unique, and compelling. The heroic ones have flaws, the villainous ones have likable qualities. The settings were interesting and easy to envision. There is a lot of history, ancient and modern. The plot moves along and keeps the reader engaged and wondering what the outcome will be.

The story begins in a remote Chinese village in 1988. Li-Yan is a young girl whose family is, as are all families in the area, tea farmers. Her mother is the most revered woman in the village because she is a midwife and medicine woman. The book is rich in the history and traditions of the Akha people. The tribe is steeped in folklore, superstition, religious beliefs, and ritual. Each person has a specific role and must not deviate from the prescribed way of life. There are many details about tea—how it is grown, picked, processed, and sold. The work is labor intensive and the results are dependent on weather and the economy.

Because the tribe is isolated it is insolated from the edicts of the communist regime. However, when a teacher is sent by the government to the village, he recognizes Li-Yan’s potential and encourages her to continue her schooling. Li-Yan gives birth to a daughter and refuses to follow the tribal custom of giving her over to be killed. Instead, she runs away leaving the child in an orphanage.

The story continues to show the hardships and success Li-Yan experiences as she becomes a businesswoman in the tea industry. She never forgets her daughter or her heritage. The daughter is adopted by an American family and her childhood is in sharp contrast to her mother’s. She is also on a quest to know her mother.

I recommend The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane to anyone who enjoys learning about other cultures, tea, and mother-daughter relationships.

 

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:31

Queen Sugar

by

Natalie Baszile

 

When her father leaves her an 800-acre sugarcane farm in Louisiana recently widowed Charley Bordelon sees it as an opportunity to start a new life. She and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, leave their middle-class lifestyle in California and move in with  Charley’s grandmother, Miss Honey. She soon learns that the farm has been mismanaged and the odds of producing a profitable crop are heavily against her. Micah has a hard time adjusting to the move and blames her mother. Charley has to fight discrimination, lack of funds, and the weather in order to put the farm in working order. When her older brother arrives, he brings a young son and a whole load of trouble with him.

The story is rich in details about sugar farming, family relationships, life in the south, hope and despair. Natalie Baszile is a fine writer whose attention to detail is wonderful to read. She evokes strong feelings for each of her characters, appeals to all the senses, examines human conditions, and tells a powerful story.

I recommend this book to everyone.

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:30

The Good Earth (The Good Earth Trilogy Book 1) by [Buck, Pearl S.]

The Good Earth

by

Pearl S. Buck     

 

            This classic book was first published in 1932 and won a Pulitzer prize. Ms. Buck’s writing is beautiful and her portrayal of the characters is complete. She gives a good visual of the setting and the people and tells a detailed story of a man’s life. The story takes place in China and begins with Wang Lung, a poor young farmer, entering into an arranged marriage with O-lan, a slave. O-lan takes over all the household duties, including the care of her elderly father-in-law, bears several children, and helps Wang Lung with their meager farm. Wang Lung has a strong affinity for his farmland and works hard to produce the best crop. They live a plain life and he manages to save enough money to purchase more land. Severe famine forces the family to move to a southern city in order to survive. O-lan, her father-in-law and her children support the family through begging. Wang Lung is a man of strong principles and feels it is improper for an able-bodied man to beg. He finds work as a rickshaw runner which is backbreaking work with very little profit. When soldiers overtake the city and the populace invades the wealthy houses, Wang Lung steals a sack of gold and later discovers that O-lan has also stolen jewels. They return to their home and use the money to purchase more land. Their prosperity saves them during periods of poor weather, crop destruction, and marauding mobs. It also changes them.

Through Wang Lung’s story, we learn about Chinese traditions of honoring elders (even those who don’t deserve it), gender roles, and class distinctions. Wang Lung’s concern for and reliance on his land is the primary force in his life.

The novel portrays the effects of rising from poverty to wealth. Prosperity changes Wang Lung, but the changes in his children are more profound. They don’t have the same work ethic as their father nor his attachment to the land and see the potential sale of the property as a source of income.

I related to the characters, especially O-lan. All of Wang Lung’s success results from her unacknowledged support. The lazy uncle, the daughter called the fool, the sons, the concubine, and the farm supervisor, Ching, are all interesting and add drama.

I recommend this classic to anyone who likes a good story in a historical backdrop.

This is dedicated to one I loved

Dedications in books are always interesting. Some are funny, some poignant, some are long on details, others are just a word that makes you wonder what it means.

The dedication on my novel, “Child of Mine” is:

For Grandmothers, Mothers, Daughters, and Granddaughters, Especially: Barbara, Celesta, Stephanie, April, Laurie, Carter, and Kayden.

The first named person, Barbara, is my maternal grandmother for whom I am named.

She was a wonderful person, a great cook, a devout woman, a hard worker, a caring friend, a terrific role model, and a killer canasta player. Every one of her grandchildren thought they were her favorite.

I had a special bond with my grandmother, especially in later years. When my mother died, Gramma became my mother and I became her daughter. I cherish every moment we spent together. We used to take drives to explore the area and laughed when we sometimes got lost. We stopped to visit loved ones in the cemeteries and went out for lunch. Gramma always said, “Save room for pie!”

She passed away in 1994, just a few months before her hundredth birthday and I miss her still.

Today, October 30, is her birthday.