Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Reviews

An intriguing novel, two memoirs, a volume of journals, an eBook with blogging tips, and a behind-the-scenes look at television history - these are the books I've read lately.

I chose these first three books based on recommendations from the What Should I Read Next podcast.

I liked the premise for this book - a man is sentenced to life inside a Russian hotel - even before I saw the cover, which I also really like. A Gentleman in Moscow begins when Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to life in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. He is 33-years-old at the time and determines immediately to make the most of the situation. The book is filled with great supporting characters: Nina, a young girl he meets and befriends; the chef and the maitre d' of the posh hotel restaurant; a beautiful actress who visits the hotel frequently; a Russian he "tutors" for years; an American diplomat, etc. There are details of historical significance, which are integral to the story, however that information is not as detailed as informative as I thought it would be to influence the story. This is a long novel, with lots of details given throughout that are all brought together so beautifully in the ending. I definitely recommend this book!

I didn't immediately add Brown Girl Dreaming to my list of books-to-read, despite the raving reviews, because it is written in verse. I'm not a huge reader of poetry, so an entire book of it didn't appeal to me. However, since the library book club I attend chose it for discussion, I checked out a copy . . .and thoroughly enjoyed it! It is very beautifully written and extremely readable. There are short chapters and long chapters - each one tells some of the the author's life story. This memoir begins with her birth in Ohio in February 1963 and follows her through her upbringing in South Carolina and New York. She illustrates how blacks were treated differently in the north and in the south and how family members adapted to those varying conditions. Her father was not a part of her life during her growing up years, so her mother raised her and her siblings. She also spent a good bit of time with her grandparents. All the stories, of good times and hard times and difficult family members, are told lovingly. So, don't let the fact that this book is written in verse keep you from reading it!

I knew that Paul Kalanithi wrote his memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, during the last year of his life. I also knew that he was in his final years of training to be a doctor. However, I was under the impression that once he was diagnosed with cancer, he chose to give up practicing medicine to pursue his dream of writing. In truth, he continued with his education and continued practicing medicine until his illness no longer allowed it. It actually scared me to read about him being so ill and continuing to treat patients, even when he had to have other doctors take over to complete surgeries because he became too weak.

The story starts when he's entering college and follows him through his studies and his interest in the intersection of life and death. I had a difficult time relating to him. The book was ok, but not totally as intriguing as I'd thought it would be. It's a small book and easy to read despite the medical jargon used throughout.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Vol. 2 begins with Maude still living with her invalid Grandmother. She travels a week to the states to visit her publisher & has a nice time. She was able to spend some of the money she'd earned after the publication of the first Anne of Green Gables book. She normally didn't spend money because her grandmother wouldn't allow luxuries. Her entries are not quite as depressive as they had become at the end of Volume 1.

After her Grandmother's death, she marries and moves from Prince Edward Island. Her husband is a minister,  and they have two sons. She is ill off and on, but continues to write and publish new books. This volume covers the first decade of her marriage and reveals her utter dislike for the duties of a minister's wife. She detests visiting and hosting guests and chairing committees, yet she keeps these thoughts to herself in order to ensure her husband's career success. In person, she claims to have come across as calm and happy despite feeling that all these duties were a waste of time.

However, she was greatly tormented over many things, particularly the years of World War I. She kept up with the news and often referenced battles and the ups and downs of the war in her journal. These events greatly affected her moods. She also had the unpleasant task of dealing with the Page Company that published her first books. She sued the company and spent time in Boston while the case was on trial. Fortunately, she was able to find some relief from the headaches these issues caused when she tried a new remedy called aspirin.

Throughout these years, one of her greatest pleasures was when her best friend Frede visited . . . and Frede's untimely death caused much depression. Another source of great torment to Maud was the discovery of her husband's terrible melancholia. After several years of marriage, he began to experience periods of "spiritual melancholia" which today would be categorized as a major depressive disorder. During the first of these lows, he went to Boston for treatment, and Maud eventually had to join him and spend several months away from her young sons. These journals are very slow reading, however I find them interesting and will continue with Volume 3 sometime in the spring.


Everything But the Posts: Tips, Advice, and Templates From a Blogger Who Has Been in Your Shoes is an eBook with basic information about blogging, along with tips for making money as a blogger. It came with a bundle of resources about blogging and was a quick easy read.

I saw an ad for Carol Burnett's In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox book and thought it would be a FUN read. It was interesting to read about all that went in to producing a weekly show, and I enjoyed when she shared specific incidents regarding some of the episodes. However, it was more of a commentary on her business life as a comedian with a variety show and wasn't as FUN as I had hoped.

Have you read any of these books? Are you adding any of them to your books-to-read list?


  1. The first two books on your list are on my ever-growing lists of books to read. I was glad to see your good recommendations. I read When Breath Becomes Air several months ago, and was very moved by it. In a way, it was a companion piece (to me) to Being Mortal which rates up there among the 10 most important books I've ever read.

  2. That first book has been on my list for quite a while, ever since I read his first book, Rules of Civility. I think he does a nice job on character development and it sounds like you agree. I had not heard of any of these others, but I am intrigued by the one written in verse.

  3. I haven't read any of these, though I would certainly pick them up for a look at the very least if I spotted any in our bookshop here. Your reviews are always a great read.

  4. Melissa,
    Thanks for linking to your blog! Great list and reviews. I'm excited to give Brown Girl Dreaming a try. I started to listen to When Breathe Becomes Air and realized reading your list that I never finished -- probably for the same reasons you mentioned. ❤


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