Saturday, August 27, 2016

Book Reviews

As usual I've been reading an eclectic mix of books these past few months, and I'm sharing my thoughts on quite a few of them today.

Edie Wadsworth's memoir, All the Pretty Things, is scheduled to release on September 20, however I received a free digital version of the book as part of the launch team online book club that's reading and discussing the book this month. This is a very moving story about Edie growing up with an alcoholic father who she loved and her desire to make him proud. The poverty and family dynamics surrounding Edie's early life are tough stories, yet somehow she sees it all through rose-colored glasses, making this memoir easy to read despite the difficult situations. She looks back with a forgiving heart while also being honest about the hurt and disappointment that often resulted when her father didn't show up or showed up drunk at various times in her life. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy memoirs and true stories of individuals overcoming difficult situations.

I read and enjoyed the first book in the 5th Wave series earlier this year (check out my review here). The second book, The Infinite Sea, continues the story of Cassie and the other main characters from the first book. However, the focus of the story shifts between various characters and is somewhat difficult to follow. I did learn the back stories of Ringer and Poundcake, yet for over half the book I was left wondering if most of the others were even still alive. This book also left me wondering which characters to trust and somewhat confused about the nanotechnology and its part in the story. I did not enjoy this book as much as the first one, however it did end in a way that makes me want to read book three and find out more about the alien invasion and who is actually still human!

A few years ago I read (and reviewed here) Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, a great book with mystery and books and strange characters. Ajax Penumbra 1969 is a Kindle Single short story about how Ajax found the bookstore in the first place. It's a FUN read with a great scene as Ajax tries to find an old book in a sunken ship that's been somewhat uncovered by the new subway tunnel being built. The ship was once a bookstore!

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal is a novel about a girl named Eva, whose mother left when she was a few weeks old. Her father died shortly after and she was raised by her aunt and uncle. Her story is told from the perspectives of different people throughout her life as she grows up and becomes a renowned chef offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This is a good book, although some chapters have quite a bit of bad language. The ending was OK, but the main relationship issue (between Eva and her mother) was not resolved.

My friend Minetta loaned me her copy of  The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. 1: 1889-1910. This thick volume begins when L.M. Montgomery was 14-years-old and concludes a couple of years after Anne of Green Gables was first published when she was 34-years-old. Because these are her personal journal entries, there are lots of little details that are left out and many individuals who come and go in her life. However, it was an extremely interesting read and she seemed to be a happy and carefree young girl and enjoyed a very busy social life as a young lady. Her descriptions of Prince Edward Island are lovely and the way she so vividly portrays Prince Edward Island in the Anne books is evident early on in her journals. I enjoyed reading about her Cavendish school years, her teacher training and the years she taught in several schools.

In her mid-20s, she became engaged and almost immediately regretted the decision. The tone of her journaling changes from this point and she begins to have episodes of depression and does lots of "groaning" to her journal, especially during the long winter months. She eventually breaks off the engagement, but then her Grandfather dies and she must live with her Grandmother in order for her Grandmother to stay in the family home. These years are difficult for her, yet she was still outwardly happy and jovial. She meets her future husband during this time and they become engaged with the understanding that she will stay with her Grandmother and the marriage may be several years away.

Beginning in her late teens, she began to have poems and stories published in magazines and was quite prolific during her 20s and early 30s. After Anne of Green Gables was published, she lamented to her journal that she could finally afford to enjoy a few of the finer things in life, yet she was trapped having to stay with her Grandmother who wouldn't allow her to provide any luxuries. Volume I ends with her writing the second Anne book, wondering what life will be like when her Grandmother is gone and she is married to a minister. I enjoyed reading this volume, despite the fact that it's a slow read and the later entries are filled with depressing days. It was so interesting to see her writing style improve and to read some of the early passages that show she drew on many of her own experiences for the story of Anne Shirley.

The library book club starts up again next month, and the first selection is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. This is an excellent novel set in France during World War II. It's the story of two sisters who endure the hardships of war in very different ways. The book actually starts in modern day Oregon as one of the sisters looks back on her life, however it isn't until much later in the book when it's obvious which sister it is. I thoroughly enjoyed this page-turner and finished it in two days!

Gossamer Ghost is the 12th book in the Scrapbooking Mystery series by Laura Childs. I've read the first 11 books and picked this one up when I noticed it on the library shelves several weeks ago. It was OK, although the plot lines in this series are so similar that it was a little boring. It was also strange because the main character, Carmela Bertrand, was terribly frightened when she discovered a dead body . . . despite the fact that this is the 12th dead body she's found! As usual there were lots of suspects, however in this book Carmela does not figure out who the murderer is until that person pulls a gun on her and Ava near the end of the book.

Have you read any of these books? Are there any that you're adding to your list of books-to-read?


  1. It amazes me as to how many books you manage to read with everything else you have going on. I'm laid up and haven't read that many books! I average about a book a week. Too many hobbies, I read The Nightingale last year and loved it too!

  2. I read The Nightingale as well, and like you and Barbara, I loved it. The Kitchens of the Midwest has been on my to-read list for awhile, but I won't get to it anytime soon. Your review tells me not to rush. Although I've read more books this year than usual, I can't even imagine trying to keep up with you!

  3. You always have interesting books for me to look out for! I especially enjoyed your review of the LM Montgomery journals. I think I'd be fascinated to read that too

  4. I have read The Nightingale and loved it. And Kitchen is on my list, but for some reason this summer, I have hardly read at all. Hopefully my autumn will be more literary.

  5. I've not read any of these books, although several sound very interesting to me. I'm currently reading about herbs and herbalism, soaking up all I can.
    Should be some blog posts coming soon! Hope your summer was grand!!


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