Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, 396 pages

This book was originally published in Sweden and was translated into English by Rod Bradbury.  It is a comic caper about Allan Karlsson, who escapes from a nursing home on his 100th birthday.

First stop?  The bus station where a criminal with a suitcase full of cash needs to use the bathroom and entrusts Allan with the suitcase.  Oops.

The book fluctuates between the present and Allan's storied life.  Remember how Forrest Gump was present for A LOT of stuff in history?  Yeah, so was Allan.  I rate the book enjoyable, but not lovable. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Case of the Phantom Cat: The Mysteries of Maisie Hutchins, Book 3 by Holly Webb, 176 pages

Maisie Hutchins is something of an amateur sleuth.  And like most amateur detectives the mysteries just seem to find her.  This time she accompanies her friend Alice on a trip to the country to get away from the London fog that is making Alice ill.  When they arrive at the country home they are informed that the house is haunted and was built on a plague pit.  Of course, all kinds of spooky things happen shortly after their arrival, but Maisie is not buying it.  She's determined to find out the real reason everyone is seeing a phantom white cat and why the library smells so horrid!

Maisie is plucky and courageous.  This was a fun bedtime read with my 7 year old.  The chapters were a nice length so that reading one a night was enough for us.  We did have to power through and read the last 40 pages or so one night just to find out the end.  This is the first Maisie Hutchins book we have read, even though it's book 3.  My daughter is anxious to read the first two though.  I think I'll be introducing her to Nancy Drew in a few years.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, 262 pages

Eilis Lacey is an Irish immigrant to Brooklyn after WWII.  She takes a job as a bookkeeper and moves into a boarding house. While in America she sort of reinvents herself and finds romance and a career both of which seemed unattainable at home.  But when a family tragedy takes her back to Ireland, she discovers what her life might have been like if she had stayed.  And then she has to make a choice, go back to America where she has commitments and a life waiting for her.  Or stay.  I won't tell you the choice she makes and I'm not even sure it was the right choice.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction from this era.  It has some romance, but I wouldn't catalog it as such.

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes, 352 pages

I started this book twice before actually finishing it.  It finally took the recommendation of a respected friend and listening to the audiobook before I made it all the way through.  And I'm glad I did.  I admit that I was a little turned off at the thought of a self-help book.  Honestly though, I wouldn't say this is self-help, or biography, or memoir or just any one thing.  It was exactly what I needed to listen to in the moment.  I listened in the car and found myself mmm-hmming and nodding along to Shonda's (I feel like we're on a first name basis now) guidance . I especially loved her chapters on being a working mother.  And I'm trying to say yes to my kids more often these days when I get invited to play or cuddle or read with them.

She also had some important thoughts on saying yes to saying no. Setting limits for yourself.  You can't do it all.  And it's true.  I'm still working on this though.

Oh and the "power pose!"  Where you put your hands on your hips and pose like Wonder Woman for a minute or so.  It really helps.  I tried it.

So as you can tell, I really enjoyed this book.  I've been a fan of Shonda's TV shows since the early days of Grey's Anatomy.  And even though I haven't watched most of her newer stuff, if I happen to catch a few minutes, I'm probably hooked for the rest of the hour.  She's an incredible storyteller.  And this book was a true testament to that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa, 312 pages

This is a well written and devastating fictional account about the protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

There is Victor, the 19 year-old runaway who has returned home to Seattle to protest and perhaps, see his step-father the Chief of Police.  There is John Henry, the proponent of non-violent protest and his girlfriend, King, who struggles with rage.  We meet two police officers, Julie and Park, who battle in the protests.  Finally, we meet Dr. Charles Wickramsingne, who is a delegate from Sri Lanka and has a must-get-to meeting with President Clinton to ensure Sri Lanka's entry in the WTO.

This is a fast and unsettling book about one violent day and event.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven't Told You by Kunal Nayyar, 245 pages

Kunal Nayyar portrays Raj on "Big Bang Theory." He came to the United States to attend college and caught the acting bug while he was there.

This is his story of growing up in India, in a family where he was well loved and his immigration to the United States.  It is a funny, sweet, heartwarming memoir.

I listened to the book, read by the author, and enjoyed every minute of it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, 587 pages

"America's First Daughter" is the fictionalized account of Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson.  The authors based the story on letters and other primary sources, as much as possible.

It is an enthralling and intriguing story about the life of Thomas Jefferson's oldest daughter, who was alive during the Revolutionary War and traveled with him to Paris when he became America's minister to France.  They were in France as that country's own revolution started.

Patsy was a wife and a mother of 11 children, but she was always foremost the daughter, companion and protector of her father.  Reading this makes me want to learn more about his other family as well, the Hemings. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett, 357 pages

Sabine was the assistant to her magician husband, Parsifal.  He dies and she finds out his family, who she thought was dead, are alive and well in Nebraska.

After Parsifal's mother and one of his sisters visit her in Los Angeles, she travels to Nebraska, in the dead of winter, to find out more about the life Parsifal lived as a boy.

Ann Patchett weaves a wonderful story of loss and love and family and acceptance in this book that also includes a bit of magic.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family & Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, 272 pages

I started this book thinking I know Hillbillies and their experiences because I had my own grandmother called Mamaw.  My dad was the oldest of seven, and the only one of his siblings to leave North Carolina.  But I did not live the life that J.D. Vance experienced.  I wasn't even exposed to it when visiting my family in North Carolina.

This is a book about broken families and a broken society that our government isn't able to fix, and is perhaps, making worse.  It goes a long way to explaining how our new president got elected.

How do we make the American Dream real and attainable for all Americans?  How do we heal broken families and break the cycle of poverty, abuse and lack of education?  Until we find those answers as a country and society, I fear we will continue to be divided.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Reivers by William Faulkner, 320 pages

"The Reivers" is the library book clubs' classic pick this year.  It was originally published in 1962, about a month before William Faulkner died.

It is a rollicking and nostalgic story that the narrator, Lucius, is telling his own grandson nearly 60 years after it happened.  Lucius was 11 years old in 1905 when he and two family employees, one black and one white, "borrow" Lucius' grandfather's car and drive it from Jefferson, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee.  They pull this off because Lucius' parents and grandparents leave town to attend a funeral. 

Stolen cars, stolen horses, prostitutes, amoral lawmen are all part of this adventure.  I wondered all through the book when the term "Reivers" would come up.  It didn't.  I later read a review that said "reivers" is an old Scottish word that means "robber."  Ahh, well said, Mr. Faulkner.  I mostly internally cringe when I know I am going to read a CLASSIC, but I totally enjoyed this one.