Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

I have mixed feelings about this book.  The story was good and interesting, but you sort of see what is coming early on and you just want it to stop!  I had a hard time identifying with some of the decisions the characters made, so it was somewhat painful to have things unfold the way they did.  The book left me feeling a little sad, too.  Not one of my favorite books, but not a bad read either.

Summary (from Amazon):
Tom Sherbourne is a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a tiny island a half day’s boat journey from the coast of Western Australia. When a baby washes up in a rowboat, he and his young wife Isabel decide to raise the child as their own. The baby seems like a gift from God, and the couple’s reasoning for keeping her seduces the reader into entering the waters of treacherous morality even as Tom--whose moral code withstood the horrors of World War I--begins to waver. M. L. Stedman’s vivid characters and gorgeous descriptions of the solitude of Janus Rock and of the unpredictable Australian frontier create a perfect backdrop for the tale of longing, loss, and the overwhelming love for a child that is The Light Between Oceans

Read: August 2013 via CD from library

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

This was a great book!  I know it was fiction, but I learned a lot about Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.  I was constantly googling to find out if certain things were true (and they always were).  The novel seemed to capture Zelda's voice and her perspective on how things were.  I really liked it!

Summary (from goodreads):
When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.

Read: July-August 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden was my kind of novel: a plot that twisted between different eras with a little non-threatening suspense.  I enjoyed the story and trying to figure out the mystery.  Some of the character's motivations were a little unbelievable, but overall it was a good story.

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-fi rst birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, "Nell" sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

Read: July 2013 (via CD from library)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I love me some Tudor history.  I liked Wolf Hall because it was a completely different spin on Henry VIII than what I usually read.  Thomas Cromwell, a nobody who becomes a lawyer, survives the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey and eventually emerges as Henry's most trusted advisor.  Cromwell helps secure the annulment from Catherine of Aragon and paves the way for Anne Boleyn to become queen.  The book was a little long, and sometimes the characters got confusing, but I'm glad I read it.  I would probably only recommend it if you love British history like I do!

Summary (from Amazon):
No character in the canon has been writ larger than Henry VIII, but that didn't stop Hilary Mantel. She strides through centuries, past acres of novels, histories, biographies, and plays--even past Henry himself--confident in the knowledge that to recast history's most mercurial sovereign, it's not the King she needs to see, but one of the King's most mysterious agents. Enter Thomas Cromwell, a self-made man and remarkable polymath who ascends to the King's right hand. Rigorously pragmatic and forward-thinking, Cromwell has little interest in what motivates his Majesty, and although he makes way for Henry's marriage to the infamous Anne Boleyn, it's the future of a free England that he honors above all else and hopes to secure. Mantel plots with a sleight of hand, making full use of her masterful grasp on the facts without weighing down her prose. The opening cast of characters and family trees may give initial pause to some readers, but persevere: the witty, whip-smart lines volleying the action forward may convince you a short stay in the Tower of London might not be so bad... provided you could bring a copy of Wolf Hall along.

Read: May-July 2014 via Kindle

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Loved this!  Rubin launches a year-long project to focus on making her life happier.  The writing draws you in and makes you think more about your own life.  Definitely want to re-read this one because Rubin has some great ideas for  how to make your life a little happier!

Summary (from Amazon):
Rubin is not an unhappy woman: she has a loving husband, two great kids and a writing career in New York City. Still, she could-and, arguably, should-be happier. Thus, her methodical (and bizarre) happiness project: spend one year achieving careful, measurable goals in different areas of life (marriage, work, parenting, self-fulfillment) and build on them cumulatively, using concrete steps (such as, in January, going to bed earlier, exercising better, getting organized, and "acting more energetic"). By December, she's striving bemusedly to keep increasing happiness in every aspect of her life. The outcome is good, not perfect (in accordance with one of her "Secrets of Adulthood": "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good"), but Rubin's funny, perceptive account is both inspirational and forgiving, and sprinkled with just enough wise tips, concrete advice and timely research (including all those other recent books on happiness) to qualify as self-help. Defying self-help expectations, however, Rubin writes with keen senses of self and narrative, balancing the personal and the universal with a light touch. Rubin's project makes curiously compulsive reading, which is enough to make any reader happy. 

Read: Spring 2013 via gift from my sister

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

I usually love Sophie Kinsella novels, but this one is definitely my least favorite.  After an unexpected break up, Lottie jumps on an offer from a long lost boyfriend to get married since they are both still single.  Sounds like a fun plot, but the main component of the story is that Lottie decides that she and Ben should wait to have sex until they get married so that their honeymoon sex will be awesome.  Her sister tries to block their attempts to consummate their marriage so that they can still get an annulment.  For me, too much of the plot was wrapped up in whether or not they will have sex before they realize they shouldn't have jumped into marriage.

The best part of the book was that it was quick and easy and silly - good for the beach.  Not sure I would have bothered if I had known what the book was really about.  I would skip this one.  Better beach books are out there!

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.

Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.

Read: June 2014 during our Amelia Island trip (via library)

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is absolutely one of the best books I have ever read.  The beginning is a little odd, because the narrator is Death himself, but I am so glad I stuck with it.  I was absolutely enthralled with Liesel, her sweet Papa, her funny friend Rudy and the quiet Jew in her basement.  With the setting in Nazi Germany, there is an undercurrent of sadness, but the story is so rich and good that you will love it anyway.  I can't wait to see the movie when it comes out in November!

Summary (from Amazon): 
Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.

Read: May-June 2013 via CD from library