Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert

In The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert, Gina is just trying to get through each day. She desperately misses her late husband, dead only two years, and is struggling to know how to care for her heartbroken teenage daughter, May. Meanwhile May is frustrated that her mother doesn't seem to show any sadness at all or any attention to her. On top of all this, Gina's difficult mother, Lorraine, has had a stroke and Gina must figure out what she needs. When an earth-shifting secret is revealed and a whole lot of together time is required, everyone's perspective gets just a little bit wider.

Gina's struggles with widowhood are heartbreaking and feel very real. Add to that the perplexities of parenting a teenage daughter and it becomes so much more complicated.

..she wanted more than anything to be a good mother. She wanted to be a mommy, or a ma, or a mama. Not the cold "Regina" May had taken to using the last year...when she deigned to address her at all. Gina missed the unconditional love of a baby.

Gina then strives to know how to care for an ailing mother that she never felt cared that much for her. A lifetime of biting criticism and harsh judgement has left Lorraine and Gina unknown to one another.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a quick, easy read about characters who were easy to like, or at least understand. Everyone has secrets- from each other or from themselves. This book explores a bit about what happens when they are finally revealed.
Add this one to your summer reading list.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Blasphemy by Douglas Preston

Blasphemy by Douglas Preston follows a group of elite scientists attempting to recreate the conditions present at the theoretical beginning of the universe, the Big Bang. Led by Dr. Hazelius, the self-proclaimed smartest person in the world, the group has built an enormous supercollider in the northern Arizona desert where they hope to discover all the mysteries of creation. To a certain high profile televangelist, this sounds exactly like blasphemy and he is determined to put a stop to it. The additional viewers and donations are just a bonus, right? When things get out of hand, there is no controlling the situation until it all ends with its own big bang.

This was a book club selection and it is highly unlikely that I would have picked this book up on my own. The scientific aspect of the story sounded like it could be interesting, but the writing was just kind of terrible. The author was obviously attempting to write a tough guy novel where the main character is the only one who understands everything, but he seemed so two-dimensional to me. The other characters in the book were even worse. Honestly, in a couple of cases, I couldn't tell if the characters were meant to be racist, or if that was just the author coming through the writing.

I was committed to reading this book all the way through for book club, but that was all that got me through the first half or so. Once I got past that point, I genuinely couldn't put it down because it had finally picked up enough speed to keep me interested. I stayed up too late finishing it, and was glad to be done, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I don't know that there was necessarily anything wrong with this book, other than I don't enjoy this writing style and the couple of racist comments that may have been meant as character flaws, but it wasn't my kind of book.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

You would expect someone accused of murder to speak in her own defense, but that's not the case in The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Alicia Berenson is found standing over her dead husband's body and refuses to utter a word. Six years later, psychotherapist Theo Faber feels certain that he can help her and also solve the mystery of what happened that night. Theo believes that he can break down the walls Alicia has built by trying to uncover what in her early life could have made her kill her own husband whom, by all accounts, she loved deeply. There is always more behind the scenes than we can ever know and this applies to all the characters in this book.

This was a very quick read for me. The chapters are short and the action has strong momentum. I went to bed last night with about a hundred or so pages left and couldn't turn off the light until I had finished. The author does a good job of presenting lots of possibilities to the reader trying to figure it all out before she gets to the end and it certainly kept me interested. I didn't love this book, but I liked it and sometimes that is just enough. This would be a good addition to your summer reading list- fun, quick, and exciting.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What I've Heard- A Week in Winter

Last summer I read A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy and really enjoyed it. I recently went back and listened to the audio version and it was absolutely delightful! The Irish accents performed by Rosalyn Landor were the perfect way to pull the listener into the story and its lovely setting. I liked this book when I read it and I was so pleased that the audio version was just as wonderful. This is an excellent get-away-from-it-all story with sweet characters. It'll make you want to open your own guest house, or at the very least find one to book for your next holiday.

You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero

You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero is a tiny little daily devotional book to help you stay on the high-frequency path you discovered while reading her first book, You Are a Badass. The idea behind it is that each day you select a page to meditate on and keep yourself heading in the direction of your goals. Sure, it sounds cheesy when I say it that way, but if you've been able to overcome the cheese you thought you would feel while reading the original, this little blue book will be icing on the cake. While it is meant to be read a little each day, I borrowed it from the library to see if I would like it and ended up plowing through the whole thing. I will shortly be purchasing my own copy.
Yes, I know I sound like I've been suckered into throwing all my money at some self-help fake guru, but hey, at least I checked it out for free from the library first!
Read it for yourself and you might find you really like it, too.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King is the first in a fifteen book series starring Mary Russell and her mentor, the now "retired" Sherlock Holmes. Having stumbled upon Mr. Holmes while on a walk through the countryside, fifteen-year-old Mary, an orphan in the care of a cheerless spinster aunt, discovers her intellectual equal. It may seem boastful to consider oneself the equal of Sherlock Holmes, but in this case it is also true. The two become fast friends and develop a partnership that takes her away from her unhappy life and injects a little spark into his too-peaceful one.

This book was interesting and the characters were good. The mysteries presented were intriguing, but the pacing was just far too slow. The language used in this historical novel was appropriate, but it impeded the reading. I really wanted to read this, but I would get a couple of pages in and find my eyes drifting closed; or I would put it down at the slightest provocation from the outside world. I know a lot of people would enjoy this style of writing, and it does draw the reader into the setting, but I just couldn't help but be a bit annoyed. Perhaps it is my fault for wanting to read more quickly so that I can read more books, but I felt like this book really slowed me down too much. I will, however, keep this series in mind for when I am in a more relaxed frame of mind because I think I could really enjoy spending more time with these characters.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen

The Van Rippers were charlatans to some, saviors to others. Crooks or angels. Saints or thieves. But...uncertainty had never stopped generations of Tarrytown women from dragging themselves in desperation to the Van Rippers' doorway, begging for help.

The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen is set in the small town of  Tarrytown, just outside of Sleepy Hollow, New York. The Van Ripper family has owned a house in the town square since the time of the American Revolution and there has always been some mystery surrounding them. Rumor has it that if you need a little magic in your life, a Van Ripper can knit you an item containing a magic spell. It could be a sweater or mittens or a scarf, but give it to someone and watch the magic work. Or not. The Van Rippers are quick to disclose that there are no guarantees. And each spell requires a sacrifice of something valuable to the seeker- not monetarily valuable, but emotionally precious.

Aubrey is the newest guardian of the Stitchery, the house that has been passed down in the family for over two hundred years, and the place where the magic is knit. As her two sisters return after a long absence for a funeral, the women have an opportunity to repair their relationship and make a major decision about how their lives will proceed. 

This book was cute, but it didn't have quite as much magic in it as I was expecting and so I was a little disappointed. I liked all the knitting references- I taught myself to knit a couple of years ago. Each chapter begins with a knitting term: Make a Knot. Drop a Stich. Slip Slip Knit. I thought that was a really cute way to incorporate knitting into the chapters beyond the magical function. There were lots of references to the actual Terrytown and its neighbor Sleepy Hollow as well as the history and myth of the area.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it. Maybe you'll like it more than I did.