Monday, June 26, 2017

Books, Books, Books

Once again, my reading has been interrupted by other things.  I'm trying something new to ensure that reading doesn't get lost during these summer months.  I have a 90-minute date with a book before bedtime every night and I find that by keeping to a specific bedtime and not reading in bed, the quality of my sleep has improved.

Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

This was Lisa See's best book yet. In the past we read about California with a China backstory, but the tables were turned this time. This was set in China with a California backstory and as we knew from the press release, it was a story of a Chinese mother and her daughter adopted by a California couple, so I expected a predictable story told in two voices. Not so! We read about the Hill People and their cultural and economic struggles to survive. We read about their minority status and the problem with opium. We read about Pu'er tea, all about Pu'er tea. I was introduced to Pu'er tea through my Tai Chi school, plus two of my friends are adoptive mothers of Korean babies, now grown. This book felt very personal. I loved the ending.

Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman

The setting is a Levittown-type of community where all houses are uniformly the same, yet the living is not. Couldn't anyone please love, listen to and appreciate someone else?! These neighbors were anything but neighborly, just going through the motions. As for the children, it was Lord of the Flies meets Long Island.

The writing was so compelling that I kept reading in spite of liking just about no one. The community was manufactured out of a potato field and the people who moved into it tried to create community from scratch. They were going through the motions of living the life they thought they were supposed to live and when they gave up, the solution seemed to be to leave. Nora was a breath of fresh air as she fought to not drown in the community's rejection and to give her sons more than she had grown up with.  Hoffman's choice of title is pure irony since these people were not living in that state.

A Piece of the World by Christine Baker Kline

The story is based on Andrew Wyeth's painting by the same name and unfolds with Christina as a young girl. A childhood illness left her with difficulty walking and no cure for her bone disease. As she grew older, the effects worsened leaving her crippled making her farm chores difficult. A bright student, the opportunity to further her studies to become a teacher were dismissed early by her parents. Her future only left her with two choices, to marry or maintain the farm. Sadly, she had very few opportunities to make romantic connections leaving her with no escape. Christina is not the most likable character, but by reading the book you become sympathetic to her disposition. Andrew Wyeth developed a relationship with her over many years and was able to capture a different side of her in his painting.  I gave it five stars.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

After reading two of this author's earlier books I received this one up from NetGalley, expecting some light reading but instead found myself in a layered tale of a struggling small town and doing what's right. I'm unfamiliar with hockey and have never seen a game so I found it hard to get into the book at first because hockey is one of the major characters!

Beartown is struggling to hang on to it's ever-shrinking existence. The major employer "efectivized it's personnel" for the past three years in a row and residents were moving away, leaving those remaining to pin their hopes on a successful season for their hockey team - a winning season. If they lost their hockey club, would they next lose their remaining school? People in desperate situations resort to desperate means. That's what this book is about. It's "all" for the hockey club, but what is "all?"

These students and hockey players have been friends since kindergarten, but at a drunken celebratory party something happens that changes everything. How quickly hockey club supporters convince themselves of a lie and turn against Maya, the victim, and throw her under the bus because they're desperate to win. Sune, the team's coach, watches helplessly, knowing that "we love winners even when they're very rarely particularly likable people." And how quickly the lie turns to hatred which seeps through their town all the way down to the children. Anyone who questions their personal actions reminds themselves that it is for the good of the club - they believe that a winning star player means a winning team and a winning town. The beginning was slow for me, but it turned into a page turner, right up to the end.  Another five start book for me.

Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik

Tall, slender Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression, which could just as well define her state of mind. Abandoned by her mother as a child, mistreated by her father, and teased by her schoolmates (“Hey, Olive Oyl, where’s Popeye?”), the lonely girl finds solace in artistic pursuits. Only when she’s hired by the town’s sole feminist to work the night shift in the local thread factory does Violet come into her name, and bloom. Accepted by her co-workers, the teenager enters the happiest phase of her life, until a terrible accident causes her to retreat once again into her lonely shell. I can't believe I gave a mystery five stars. I always say that I don't like the mystery genre and than I have to qualify that by adding, except for Tony Hillerman. He had an uncanny way of placing me in the story, the sounds, the vistas, the culture - I overlooked the formulaic pacing. After a stretch of years I went back and read them all again.

Oh My Stars is Lorna Landvik’s most ambitious novel yet, with a cast of characters whose travails and triumphs you’ll long remember. It is a tale of love and hope, bigotry and betrayal, loss and discovery–as Violet, who’s always considered herself a minor character in her own life story, emerges as a heroine you’ll laugh with, cry with, and, most important, cheer for all the way.

This is from the publishers review but it was the dose of chick lit I was looking for.

Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

I can't believe I gave a mystery five stars. I always say that I don't like the mystery genre and than I have to qualify that by adding, except for Tony Hillerman. He had an uncanny way of placing me in the story, the sounds, the vistas, the culture - I overlooked the formulaic pacing. After a stretch of years I went back and read them all again.

And then along comes his daughter, writing the things I had enjoyed so much but from a woman's perspective. Her writing is literary while holding true to the mystery who dunnit expectations. As a weaver I am especially excited about the culture she weaves into her stories, pun intended. I know for a fact that this is first mystery I've concluded choked up with sentimental tears. I'm a fan.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I have to write reviews of the books I receive through NetGalley so I rarely write for other books.  Once again, this review is from the publisher.  It's my favorite book so far this year and when I finished reading, I felt like I knew Alma, that she was a real person.  She was very real to me. This is a six star book!

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who — born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution — bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert's wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.


Cindie said...

Thanks for the reviews. I already have the Tea Girl one in my queue for Library2Go so glad to hear it's so good.

danielle said...

To add to your list - which you may already have read - Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

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NaRong said...

I already have the Tea Girl one in my queue for Library2Go so glad to hear it's so good''''

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