Category Archives: reading

Midyear Reading Review

I had so much fun writing a previous book review post, Summer Reading, that I think I’ll write a similar one at the onset of the new year.  Perhaps this will become a semi-annual tradition.

Since summer ended, I’ve had a bit of a struggle finding both books that excite me and time to read them.  In review, however, it does not seem quite as sparse as it felt. Here are some of my most notable reads:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  I’d heard good things about this book for quite some time, so I finally had to read it for myself.  It is the story of a boy named Santiago who goes in search of his “personal legend,” learning about himself along the way.  There are many words of wisdom embedded into the tale (one of which led to my post, Beyond Sameness.) However, it seemed to me that way too much effort was put into adding deep meaning to the simple story.  I enjoyed it on a light level and then donated my copy to the little lending library at my favorite hotel at the beach.

The Cry of the Peacock by V.R. Christensen.  I’d never heard anything about this book or author before. Frankly, I chose it from a discount e-book site because I liked the picture of the peacock on the cover and I love the sound of peacocks crying.  It was also free.

The story is about two sisters in Victorian times who have fallen on hard times.  One gets the chance to redeem herself and the noble family her father worked for if she will just marry the oldest son. The plot is very Jane Austin, with the characters all fumbling around to find their correct niches, not to mention spouses.  It is a relaxing read and a good escape when stressed.  Maybe sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

Incidentally, in a preface, the author mentions a companion book, Of Moths and Butterflies, written prior to this one.  She says it shows a heroine who makes different choices than Abby in The Cry of the Peacock.  It sounded familiar to me and when I checked my Kindle, I realized I had downloaded it from the same discount site. I had chosen this one because of the beautiful blue butterfly on the cover.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  This reflective book was written while the author spent her summer alone in an isolated cottage at the beach.  Her writing somehow takes on a cadence that feels like the gentle rolling of waves.  She writes about the different phases of development as a woman, choosing a symbolic shell for each stage.  It’s a great read for a slow summer day when you have time for pondering womanhood and human nature.  Her philosophizing lost me for a while in the middle of the book, but caught me back up in the next chapter.  I will need to buy a copy for my bookshelf as this was unfortunately a digital loan from my library.

The Lake House by Kate Morton.  This is a mystery about a baby that goes missing after World War I, on an enchanting estate in Cornwall.  The case goes unsolved and is revisited by a modern-day (2003)  detective on leave from her job as a police officer.  I found it engaging and enjoyed following the threads of plot as the new and the old weaved themselves together.

This is my second book by this author.  She definitely seems to have a formula to her writing.  One of her characters is a writer and even alludes to formula and writing process. However, the complex plot and delicious setting make it a page-turner.  At times there is a comfortable predictability, and sometimes that prediction leads to a dead-end.  I also appreciated Morton’s impeccable vocabulary.

Up next on my reading list:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (a reread from childhood!)

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray

The Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers (a reread)

The Lady in the Van by Allen Bennett

These should keep me busy for a while.  Please leave a response if you read any of my recommendations, or if you have any books to recommend.

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Summer Reading

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One of summer’s sweetest delights is catching up on my reading list.  I start the summer off with a visit to a used bookstore and glean all the titles and authors I can find that are on the list I’ve kept all year.  This summer I also treated myself to a Barnes and Noble splurge for my birthday in June.

Since I am a used book store junkie, you’ll find that many of my titles are not new. There are newer books on my reading list, but my finds are generally at least a couple of years old.  While I am reading this stock of books, a newer inventory will come into the store and I will search them out later.  This system works well to join my love of reading with my budget.

Here are a few of my favorites from what I’ve read so far this summer:

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.  This is the autobiography of the young Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for being vocal in her support of education for girls.  She survived and continues to address women’s education issues around the world.  She is 19 years old now.

The appeal of this book for me was not so much the writing style, but the fact that Malala was only 15 years old when she became famous for surviving such terror.  She is clearly an adolescent, talking about fights with her brother, clothing styles and blushing about boys. Yet she shifts into a mature persona when discussing her work and speaking engagements.  Her story inspires me and makes me hope that I would be able to stand  up for my own beliefs if the day ever comes when I need to.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  This novel spans several generations.  It tells of the lives of three women, each from a different era, and intertwines their stories.  I suggest reading this in book format, rather than digital, as you may have to flip back and forth to follow the dates in each woman’s tale as time moves back and forth.  The author cleverly creates a cameo appearance by Frances Hodgson Burnett and suggests that perhaps her classic story, The Secret Garden, was born from her visit to the enchanting garden that is central to this novel.

Though long, this was an easy summer read.  I was mildly puzzled by what seemed like a change in one of the main character’s voice about two-thirds of the way through, as well as an important piece of information that seemed thrown in at the last minute.  It is possible that I was distracted for a transitional page.  Either way, I made the adjustment and was compelled to keep turning pages until I reached the conclusion.  I liked this well enough that at some point I will read Morton’s newer novel, The Lake House.

The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay.  This is a work of fiction which takes place during the modernization of Paris in the 1860’s.  It is told through a series of letters written by a 60-year-old woman as she hides in her house, which is slated to be demolished along with the rest of her neighborhood.  Her letters are to her deceased husband and express what their home has meant to them over the years.  The house and the woman are symbolic of each other as both embrace and protect their family at any cost.

I found this book to be heart-wrenchingly beautiful.  The letter format (epistolary, as de Rosnay says)  is a unique style and makes the telling much more intimate.   It should be read for its own merits and not compared to de Rosnay’s earlier best-selling novel, Sarah’s Key, which I also would recommend.

Some of the books still piled on my queue are:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  I know nothing about this book, but keep hearing how much everyone else has enjoyed it.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I’m probably the last person on earth to read this story, but better late than never.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  I also want to read Circling the Sun by the same author.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.  I was looking for her novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton, but found this older one instead.  Strout is a new author for me.

About Grace by Anthony Doerr.  I was enthralled by All the Light We Cannot See by Doerr, so I am going back and reading his first novel published.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  This title was thoughtfully recommended in a comment left by another blogger on a previous post.

As you can see, I will run out of summer before I run out of books to read.

So, what are you reading?  Please leave recommendations in the comments section, and note titles to add to your own reading list.