Thursday, September 29, 2016

What I've added to my TBR lately: Fiction Edition

You probably already know that when it comes to fiction, I'm pretty picky. I need a well-crafted story; strong, likable characters; and above all, good writing. I tend to gravitate toward historical fiction for a number of reasons, not least of which is for moralistic reasons. These are the novels that fulfill at least most of my criteria and that I'm looking forward to reading.

First up, two books I've seen recommended by several book bloggers I trust. A Gentleman in Moscow is a chunkster about a man put under house arrest in a hotel in Russia.

Be Frank with Me is contemporary fiction about a woman who is sent from a publisher to be a handler for a novelist's son, Frank, so the novelist can write her second big best-seller.

Book two in the Kopp Sisters series has just been released, but I have yet to read book one, Girl Waits with Gun. The novels are set in the early part of the 20th century, and the main character is a deputy sheriff.

A Curious Beginning is the first in Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell mystery series set in 1880s London.

I'm always looking for fiction I might enjoy on audio, and Julian Fellowes' (of Downton Abbey fame) new novel, Belgravia, seems like something I'd like. It's set in 1840s London and deals, I believe, with the change in English society at the time. (Don't you just love that cover?!)

Enchanted Islands blends fiction and memoir, which excites me and makes me nervous at the same time. It's about a woman who becomes an undercover intelligence officer sent to the Galapagos Islands during World War II. I think this would also be good on audio.

Outrun the Moon is a middle grade/YA novel set in 1906 San Francisco. The main character, Mercy Wong, weathers the great earthquake, among other things.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a novella by the man who brought us A Man Called Ove. It's set to come out November 1.

I absolutely loved Monica Wood's memoir When We Were the Kennedys about losing her father as a girl. And I've heard good, gushing things about her novel, The One-in-a-Million Boy about a boy who has an ambition to get into the World's Record book.

I've also heard wonderful things about The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, but it reminds me so much of A Man Called Ove's plot, I'm a little wary.


And for some "chick lit." I intend to read Jojo Moyes' Me Before You soon, but I have to admit the plot of The Girl You Left Behind (being historical fiction) interests me more.

I've added The Rosie Project to my list in an effort to read some of the more popular fiction books.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is also on my "read soon" list (though it will probably be next year), but I'm also interested in Maria Semple's new book, Today Will Be Different (out Oct. 4).
 Have you read anything on my list? What did you think?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My fall book list

There are so many books coming out this fall (and late summer) that I want to read right now. I know I won't get to them all by the end of the year, but I'm going to read as many of these as I can:


Link up with Top Ten Tuesday here.

Monday, September 26, 2016

What I'm reading this week (9/26/16)

Last week I finished:

I finished Show and Tell, new and selected poems by Jim Daniels. This is what you'd call "working man" poetry, much like Philip Levine's wonderful poems (of the Deborah Garrison of male poetry). They're manly poems that tell you what life is like for white collar guys. I enjoyed the collection quite a bit. There were several poems about his father that I especially enjoyed. My rating: 4 stars.

Lily and the Octopus. Hmm. I'm not exactly sure what to say about this one. The book world seems to be in conspiracy to not give away much of the plot, but I see absolutely no need for all the hush-hush. It's a very average book about what most dog books are about (think Marley and Me). I didn't enjoy the story, and I didn't enjoy the writing. I found it quite pedestrian. I kept waiting for it to get "magical" but it never did for me. To each his own, but this was not my cup of tea, and I wish I'd read something else instead. My rating: 2 stars.

Delicious! however, was another story. This is the story of Billie Breslin, a gifted baker who is unable to set foot in the kitchen anymore. She takes a job at Delicious! a food magazine, and as it closes, she finds WWII-era  letters secreted away in the magazine's library between a girl named Lulu and the famed James Beard. That's all I'll tell you, because it really is part mystery. There's also romance, lots of food talk, and an underlying theme of identity that is really quite intriguing. I've read most of Ruth Reichl's body of work, and this, her first work of fiction, is in my top two favorites. Part of the reason I enjoyed it so much may have been because I listened to it instead of read it. The audiobook is very good. Regardless, I highly recommend this one, especially if you love food and/or Ruth Reichl. My rating: 5 stars.

Last week I began:

One of my favorite people on earth is Glennon Doyle Melton. Her first book, Carry On, Warrior is one of my favorite self-helpy/womany books. She deals with big issues honestly (SO honestly), and a lot of women, myself included, find strength in her work. Her work deals with her life, the beauty and difficulty of it, and her journey to faith and wisdom and connection and healing. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, GO. Amazing. Love Warrior is the current Oprah Book Club pick.

I was running low on pick-up/put-down books to read, so I decided to begin next month's book early. I started Firefly Hollow about a cricket, a firefly, and a vole. And I started Anne Byrn's (you know, The Cake Mix Doctor) American Cake that takes a journey through the evolution of cake in America from Colonial times to present.
This week, I'll finish:

I'm coming to the end of The 50 States, and I'm enjoying it. It's kind of nice that Wisconsin is among the last states, alphabetically, so I can, you know, save the best for last. :)


Monday, September 19, 2016

What I'm reading this week (9/19/16)

Last week I finished:

I'm happy to report that Elements of Style and I made friends somewhere along the way, and here's how it happened. Each "chapter" of the book deals with another room of the house, and at the beginning of each chapter, Gates includes a personal essay that pertains to that room or its function. Two of these essays really hit home with me: the Bathroom one on identity and looks and the Nursery one about being childfree but still having hard feelings about it. They both made me cry. Overall, the book was only average in its design and slightly below average in design advice, though. My rating: 3 stars.

 I have been looking ridiculously forward to Jackie Robinson's autobiography I Never Had It Made, and I think it's the book that has disappointed me most so far this year. The movie, 42, based on this book, is one of my favorite movies. I fully expected to love Robinson, revel in the dignity of his story, and get my baseball fix for the year. I walked away not feeling any of that. First, it is not a book about baseball. He talks about his baseball career and being the first black man in major league baseball, but that was only a small part of the book. The majority of the book dealt with his years in the civil rights movement and politics. Since race and racial politics is such an explosive issue in this country at present, I choose not to talk about where Robinson and I agree, disagree, and won't see eye to eye. I will say that there is much I don't understand about race relations and race in sports. The book was written in the early 1970s, and I would have appreciated an afterward that talked about what strides baseball has made in racial discrimination in the past 40 years. Robinson seems very bitter (and I won't judge his feelings as right or wrong) and sensitive, and I didn't realize how outspoken he was when it came to race relations in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Some people would love this book, I'm sure. I just didn't. My rating: 2 stars.

Alonzo Field's My 21 Years in the White House was a quick read originally published in 1960. Alonzo was a butler at the White House under four presidential administrations (Hoover, FDR, Truman, and Kennedy). His name comes up in other books about White House staff, so if you read those books, you'll recognize the name. He talks breezily about how the different administrations approached family meals, luncheons, teas, and state dinners. He gives his honest impressions of presidents and other heads of states he served in his 21 years. It you're interested in first-hand accounts of White House staff, this one isn't bad, but it doesn't have the breadth or depth of, say, The Residence. My rating: 3 stars.

This week I continue with:

I'm still loving the poems in Show and Tell. There have been several poems about his father that have blown me away. I'm a sucker for a father poem.

I'm also still loving The 50 States. I'm up to South Dakota.

And my adoration of Delicious! continues. I actually look forward to getting up at 5:40am because I get to see what happens to Billie and the secret letters today.

Next up:

Monday, September 12, 2016

What I'm reading this week (9/12/16)

Last week I finished:

My head is swimming with all the presidential and White House trivia I've stuffed into it the last year or so. I'm nearing the end of my "read 20 books about presidents or the White House" challenge, and I'm thinking I might have to do it again some day. I've loved my time with these books. History classes never teach you the "fun" history. Under This Roof was a very good book that examines 21 presidential administrations and how the president lived, worked, and changed the White House. I found the first half or so of the book rather dull (which I hate admitting considering how much I loved the second half), but once we got to about Abraham Lincoln (and definitely by the time we got to Teddy Roosevelt), I was hooked. At the turning point, I began to dearly love the book. I guess I have a hard time being interested in the early presidents. Don't know why. Brandus put forth a fair book. Considering how short it was, there was much that had to be cut (he only presented half of the presidents, for instance), but I didn't feel like things were cut or included to disparage any particular presidents or administrations. He told both sides of the story, and he did it succinctly and fairly. Never has Nixon gotten such even treatment! I do quibble a bit with a few of his modern choices. He wrote about Reagan, but that chapter seemed to be nothing but which presidents watched which movies in the White House theatre (Carter watched the most), which didn't quite fit with the tenor of the rest of the book. It was interesting, but a bit fluffy. Also, I was looking forward to a chapter on George W. Bush and 9/11 and the subsequent wars. But Bush was excluded and 9/11 was discussed in the Barack Obama chapter. I understand this decision--he wanted to include the sitting president--but I wish that day of American history would have had its own chapter. Small quibbles, though. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about presidents I didn't know much about before but was definitely intrigued by, like Hayes and Wilson. My rating: 4 stars.

Last week I began:

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. I fell in love with his story through the film 42, but I had no idea that he later became very vocal and political. Interesting stuff.
This week I continue with:

Elements of Style is a bit disappointing, but then it's really hard to find a stellar decorating book. My tastes run toward the traditional, and Erin Gates's run a little more modern/eclectic. The patter about her life is mildly entertaining, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of substance about decorating itself, just a lot of talk about things anyone who watches HGTV knows (for instance, renovations go over budget).

There's a reason they call them coffee table books: you need a coffee table on which to read them. I don't know how to read those large format books like Dogs. My lap is only so big. This sounds funny, but it prevents me from picking the book up and getting into it. It's so unwieldy.


I'm savoring Show and Tell. The poems are working-man poems, and I love them. Thank you, Jim Daniels, for "writing what you know".

I'm getting back into The 50 States, and I'm enjoying it again. I think I'm at New Hampshire. I learned in Mississippi (I think) that shoes didn't used to be sold in pairs until about 1870. Isn't that interesting?

My audiobook:

I'm absolutely adoring Ruth Reichl's novel Delicious! It's a home run for me. 

Next up: