My name is Lucy Barton. Finished 2-25-17, rating 3.75/5, fiction, pub. 2016
Unabridged audio read by Kimberly Farr
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lies the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. from Goodreads
I was going to wait to write about this one until after our book club meeting, but since it’s been postponed until June I think I’ll go ahead before I forget about it completely. I listened to this short book and it was okay. The writing was great and the mother-daughter relationship at the center was complex and interesting. The mother was infuriating and I was hoping that Lucy would stand up to her, but as is the case in most parental relationships, they are fraught with landmines that one or both parties would just like to avoid. This made Lucy a weaker character that she might have been if the story had been told just from the point of view of her escaping her poverty-stricken childhood.
It did feel disjointed, jumping from here to there, with nothing much going on, but then by the end all of the little paths merged into something quite complete. I did like it, but I’m not sure I’ll be reading more from the author.
Practically Green. Finished 9-28-16, rating 4/5, greening your home, 224 pages, pub. 2009
Simple copy-and-clip guides that make it easy to buy smart. At-a-glance charts and lists that break down complicated information in an easy-to-understand manner
30+ DIY projects and ideas for making-it-green yourself, including instructions for making all-natural body care products, simple sewing projects and much more
Healthy, tasty recipes to please kids and adults alike, ideas for packing greener lunches plus tips and tricks for replacing packaged convenience snacks with home-made versions
Let Practically Green guide you to a greener life! from Goodreads
I’ve spent the past few years ‘greening’ our house in bits and spurts and thought this book was a nice guide for beginners and beyond. I found new info and lots of reminders of things I still want to do. I loved the layout which only added to the enjoyment. It was published in 2009, so some of the information is common knowledge now, but mostly it’s still up-to-date. It even has handy information sheets that you can cut out of the book for reference.
Our city has a wonderful curbside recycling program, they take almost anything, and just started providing bags so that we can recycle things like clothes and shoes too. I feel spoiled in that regard, but even without extensive recycling you can make your house safer for your family and future families by buying less chemicals, processed foods and cheap clothing. It’s always a work in progress around here. There are always things to improve upon. And buy less. We heard several times on our trip to Boston that much of the of the city is build on landfill. The less you buy the less landfill we need to live on.
What’s it about – Greening your home through your food, your cleaners, and your clothes.
What did I learn – If everyone in the US replaced one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper with 100% recycled paper we could save 423,900 trees. About 80-90% of energy used in clothes washing comes from heating the water. Lots of facts like this pop up throughout the book just so you have something to think about and consider.
Who would like it – Anyone who would like to start the process of living in a way that puts less of a burden on future generations.
The Watermark. Finished 9-15-16, rating 4/5, inspirational, 256 pages, pub. 2001
“I wanted to tell her the truth. I wanted to finally tell her everything. But the door slammed shut as it rightfully should have before I could be brave enough to do a thing.”
Sheridan Blake believes he has made one mistake that is beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. Even after seven years of hopelessness, Sheridan still struggles to make something out of his life. When Genevie Dayton interrupts his self-imposed isolation, Sheridan dates to hope for a second chance. from Goodreads
I picked this up at a library sale a few years ago because I thought it was pretty and that I recognized the author’s name (I didn’t). Somehow I missed the big pink sticker on the spine proclaiming this book to be Inspirational, but wasn’t hard to miss once I started reading. I tend to avoid the inspirational fiction. Most of them feel very vanilla to me when I like a little chocolate, but this one was sweet just the way it was and I liked it quite a bit. The Watermark:A Tender Story of Forgiveness and Hope by Travis Thrasher. Yeah, the subtitle should have tipped me off too.
Sheridan returns to college after a seven year hiatus. He still feels shame and guilt about the incident that got him kicked out of college the first time but he is trying to put his life back together. He brings in a roommate and meets a girl and things are looking good. If only he can find forgiveness.
It’s always easier to tell others they need to forgive themselves than it is to forgive yourself. Or to accept that forgiveness from God. Sheridan has a lot of forgiving to do.
I think anyone who likes inspirational stories might like this one. I also think this would make a nice gift for anyone going to or in college. It doesn’t turn a blind eye from the reality of college life and the trouble that kids get in to when on their own for the first time.
The Croquet Player. Finished 9-7-16, rating 4/5, fiction, 98 pages, pub. 1937
This allegorical satire about a man fleeing from his evil dreams was written under the influence of the Spanish Civil War. The croquet player, comfortably sipping a vermouth, listens to the strange & terrible tale of the haunted countryside of Cainsmarsh–a horror which broadens & deepens until it embraces the world.
Wells’ modern ghost story of a remote English Village, Cainsmarsh. Dark events are plaguing its people. A terrified farmer murders a scarecrow. Family pets are being bludgeoned to death. Loving couples are turning on each other in vicious rage. People are becoming suspicious of every move each other makes. Children are coming to school with marks on them. One observer thinks there’s evil underground scattered all over the marsh, invading villagers’ minds, & it’s spreading. A well bred, affable & somewhat effeminate croquet player is told the strange story of Cainsmarsh & it’s impending doom as if its plight was the beginning of the end of civilization. (Goodreads)
A modernish day ghost story, published in 1937. A croquet player minding his own business, is approached by a doctor who dumps this crazy story of evil on him. I love the croquet player and his pages of description about himself.
“It takes all sorts to make a world and I see no sense in pretending to be the human norm when one is not. Regarded from a certain angle I am no doubt a soft, but all the same I can keep my head and temper at croquet and make a wooden ball perform like a trained animal.” p.11
“I have soft hands and am ineffective will. I prefer not to make important decisions. My aunt has trained me to be to be her constant associate and, with displays and declarations on all possible occasions of an immense maternal passion for me, she has-I know it clearly-made me self-indulgent and dependent.” p.13
A strange, haunting, thought-provoking novella for H.G. Wells fans and a good introduction to his writing for newbies. I thought it was wonderfully deep and discussion worthy, especially given its length.
My post when I read this last month for my book a day challenge.
Following Ezra:What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from his Extraordinary Son. Finished 9-1-16, rating 4/5, autism, 241 pages, pub. 2011
When Tom Fields-Meyer’s son Ezra was three and showing early signs of autism, a therapist suggested that the father needed to grieve.
“For what?” he asked.
The answer: “For the child he didn’t turn out to be.”
That moment helped strengthen the author’s resolve to do just the opposite: to love the child Ezra was, a quirky boy with a fascinating and complex mind. Full of tender moments and unexpected humor, Following Ezra is the story of a father and son on a ten-year journey from Ezra’s diagnosis to the dawn of his adolescence. It celebrates his growth from a remote toddler to an extraordinary young man, connected in his own remarkable ways to the world around him. from Goodreads
This was the first book that I picked up for Jason after we received Gage’s PDD-nos diagnosis when he was two. Now that I’ve read it I understand that it was the PERFECT book for him at the time and would recommend it to any other dad just entering the autism world. I remember Jason telling me that his big take away was that this dad chose to embrace the obsessions (obviously trains for Gage) and that is something that we still do. But my biggest take away from the book is the utter acceptance of Ezra by his parents. I’m not saying they didn’t struggle, they are parents after all, but they weren’t struggling to change him. This is the approach Jason has always taken and it tones down my, “I can fix this,” attitude.
There was so much that was recognizable here, the sensory issues, the endless loop of questions, the laughing when being corrected that it was comforting to read about Ezra and his continual progress. Fields-Meyer writes with compassion, love and humor about something that turns a family upside down. Not just for dads, but for anyone who wants to understand what autism really looks like day to day, this is a great read. It doesn’t dwell on the therapies but on the boy. As it should be.
This is my first book of my 30 books in 30 days challenge that you can read more about here.
One Kick. Finished 8-29-16, 4/5 stars, thriller series, pub. 2014
Unabridged audio read by Heather Lind.
Kick Lannigan series #1
Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick’s experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past… from Goodreads
I loved Cain’s first book, Heartsick, but didn’t care for the next in the popular series so I didn’t continue. With One Kick she has won me back. This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s set in the world of child abduction and pornography, of safehouses and pedophiles, of locked boxes and bombs. Kick Lanagan is a survivor but an eternal victim and she is damaged in a way that, thankfully, most of us don’t understand firsthand. She is a compelling character that I’m curious to know more about as the series continues.
Kick is known as Beth to the thousands of men who have downloaded her child pornography. Between the ages of six and twelve, Beth lives with Mel and his wife and they are part of a pedophile ring and Kick, even seeing freedom in sight, shields them and countless others in a moment she will regret. Enter Bishop ten years later who offers her a chance to redeem herself by helping him locate a missing boy.
This is a solid start to a new series. Kick is profoundly damaged, as is everyone around her, nary a decent person in sight, but she is also looking to make things right when she can. Given that she is a victim of sexual abuse I know that it will always be part of the story, but I hope that the next book offers some light and hope and joy. Kick deserves it.
Before the Fall. Finished 7-5-16, rating 4/5, thriller, 390 pages, pub. 2016
On a foggy summer night, eleven people—ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter—depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs—the painter—and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.
With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members—including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot—the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage. from Goodreads
I hate to fly, I do it when I have to because I know it will get me somewhere beautiful, but I still hate it. This book started with a bang, or a blast, or a fire, or whatever might have brought the plane down and led is into cold Atlantic waters with a swimmer and a boy trying to survive. Even knowing from the description that they will be safe didn’t make those pages any less tense or nail biting. I was hooked. What happens when the two hit land is where the story and the condemnation of 24 hour cable news, especially the ones touting a specific point of view, begins.
But journalism was something else, wasn’t it? It was meant to be objective reporting of facts, no matter how contradictory. You didn’t make the news fit the story. You simply reported the facts as they were. When had that stopped being true? (page 274)
This book has been called the book to read this summer from just about every corner of the blogging and print world so I was curious. I loved the first half of the book very much. The victims of the crash all had their say and it was compelling, even though they were dead. The mystery of the crash remained and Scott was a character I wanted to figure out. It is a very smart book. I did think it was a little anticlimactic by the end, but I’d still recommend it.
The Girl on the Train. Finished 6-3-16, rating 4/5, thriller. pub. 2015
Unabridged audio read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher. 11 hours
EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? from Goodreads
I’m a little late on this one and that’s okay. There was so much hype it scared me away for a while. I’d seen the comparisons to Gone Girl and I had a love/hate relationship with that book. I do remember the end made me so mad that I wanted to throw it across the room (actually, that might have happened). So, I went into this one with dark, twisty expectations and it delivered. As with Gone Girl, the multiple points of view and the hot mess of unlikable characters, were somehow elevated by terrific storytelling.
I don’t even really want to say more. I think the less you know the better. I’ll just say that someone dies and there are quite a few people who could have done it. And Rachel, the first narrator, isn’t even the biggest hot mess of them all. Quite a story. It may make you feel like going to your happy place afterward since none of those people have seen a happy place in just about forever.
Perfect for thriller lovers who like dark, twisty novels.
The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax. Finished 6-12-16, rating 4/5, mystery, 172 pages, pub. 1970
When Emily Pollifax answers the phone that Sunday morning, she quickly forgets all about her Garden Club tea that afternoon. For the voice on the other end belonged to a man she had never seen, a man from the CIA who asked her if she could leave immediately on a mission that would take her halfway across the world! What could Mrs. Pollifax say but yes? from Goodreads
Mrs. Pollifax is a widower in her 60’s and instead of settling down to garden club meetings she has become an improbable asset to the CIA. This is her second case and she heads to Turkey to try to make contact with a double agent being sought by a seemingly endless list of countries. As Emily Pollifax makes friends in the most unlikely of places, the authorities and bad guys close in.
I read a few of the Mrs. Pollifax series way before I became obsessed with reading series’ in order and I have to say that it’s okay. Emily is just as delightful in any order 🙂 I like learning about the exotic locales that Emily is sent to and really liked learning about the gypsies in this one.
I recommend this series to cozy mystery fans and fans of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.
Already Home. Finished 3-29-16, rating 4.25/5, women’s fiction, pub. 2011
Unabridged audio read by Teri Clark Linden. 10 hours 33 minutes.
After nearly a decade as a sous-chef in a trendy eatery, and fresh off a divorce from the owner, Jenna Stevens is desperate for a change. So when she spots a for-lease sign in her hometown, she impulsively decides to open her very own cooking store. Her crash course in business is aided by a streetwise store manager and Jenna’s adoptive mother. But as soon as she gains a foothold in her new life, in walk her birth parents—aging hippies on a quest to reconnect.
Now Jenna must figure out how to reconcile the free-spirited Serenity and Tom with the parents who raised her and decide whether to open her heart to a man who just might be the best thing to happen to her in years. All without sacrificing her newly found dreams. In the end, Jenna will find that there is no perfect family, only the people we love.… from Goodreads
I went in expecting a romance, and while this did have the feel of romance, it was so much more than that. Jenna (I’ve always loved that name) has been left by a jerk of a husband and decides to go home and on a whim buys retail space for a cooking store, with no retail experience or plan at all. Her first order of business was hiring the most interesting character in the book, Violet, and the two of them form a successful business and friendship.
Jenna enjoyed a close and loving relationship with her parents and had no interest in finding her real parents, even after they showed up in her store. The story of two families coming together was sweet and heartwarming. I didn’t always love Jenna, she seemed clueless much of the time, but the cast of characters (especially her half-brother Dragon) made this a fun and touching novel.
If you love reading about family dynamics, especially those with likeable aging hippies, then you should give this one a look.