Archives for December 19, 2013

A Review of Books I’ve read in 2013 – Part 1

I really enjoy reading.  I read sometimes at night before I go to bed, when I am waiting at the doctor’s office, while I am getting my hair done, and anytime I have some down time.

I group the books I’ve read into three categories

  1. Those I’ve read for book club
  2. Those I’ve read for me
  3. Those I’ve listened to (I guess this isn’t technically books I’ve read, but bear with me)

 

The book club books tend to be books I’d never pick up and read on my own.  Either because I don’t know the author or they didn’t seem interesting to me at first, but for the most part I’ve enjoyed them and I’m glad I had the push to pick them up!  So let’s start with those.  (All photos are courtesy of Amazon):

Plan B, Jonathan Tropper (fiction)

Four friends are turning 30 and having a hard time coming to grips with being 30 – they are older than their parents were when they were born and older than every pop culture star, and their lives seem to be going nowhere.  They try to help another friend whose highly successful Hollywood lifestyle has lead him to a life of addiction.

This story is somewhere between The Big Chill and Friends.  I think I am too old to have much empathy with the characters, but I imagine it would be a very interesting read for a member of the millennial generation.

 Sweetness at the Bottom of The Pie, Alan Bradley (mystery)

This story takes place in a sleepy English village of Bishop’s Lacey at the great house of Buckshaw.  The main character is Flavia de Luce, an inquisitive, adventurous young girl.  Flavia is an aspiring chemist and an aspiring detective.  Flavia discovers a dead body outside her home early one morning and this discovery leads her on adventures to discover the murderer.   While I enjoyed the story, I found it juvenile and will probably not read any of the other Flavia de Luce Mysteries.  As a matter of fact, after reading it, I assumed it was a “young adult” selection.

Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom (non-fiction)

The story begins when Albom is asked by his 82 year old rabbi to prepare his future eulogy.  In preparation, Albom spends the next eight years getting to know the man better.  At the same time, Albom becomes involved with a poor, black inner city pastor who preaches to the poor and homeless.  While the lives of these two men of God are totally different–Christian and Jewish, Black and White, Rich and Poor, Albom learns that their strong faiths make them more similar than different.  The message of the book is simply that faith binds us together and with faith all things are possible.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Jan-Philipp Sendker, (fiction)

This book was one I would never have picked up on my own, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.  The only way I can describe this without giving away the story is to quote the book description from Amazon:

When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.

Back Bay, William Martin (historical fiction)

Did you know that Boston’s Back Bay was once actually a bay and was filled in during in the mid-1800’s?  I didn’t; and this was just one of the  historical facts I learned while reading this book.

Back Bay (written in 1992) was William Martin’s first novel.  It is a gripping story centered on the cantankerous and industrious Pratt family from revolutionary war times to current day.  Martin uses a technique whereby he has a current day main character (Peter Fallon) who is researching the Pratt family from Revolutionary War times to modern day to uncover their long guarded family secret.  The story is fast paced, exciting and full intrigue and historical tidbits.  I totally enjoyed this book, and as a matter of fact, read William Martin’s current book Harvard Yard (I will be mentioning this book in a later post).

 The Good House, Ann Leary (fiction) 

Hildy Good is a successful real estate agent in her hometown on Boston’s North Shore, presumably near Salem, Massachusetts.  Hildy is an alcoholic in denial.  The book is poignant and at times, very funny.  It is an easy read without much to offer besides pure entertainment.

The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty (fiction)

An intriguing story set in the suburbs of Australia.  The book tells the story of Celia, a near-perfect wife and mother; her husband Jean-Paul who has been harboring a dark secret; Tess, who moved home with her son after her husband admitted to loving another woman; her old boyfriend Connor; and an older woman, Rachael who is still grieving the murder of her teenage daughter.  Liane Moriarty intertwines the lives of these characters into a story that is poignant, funny and leaves the reader thinking about right and wrong, and consequences of the characters’ actions.  I found some of the characters to be similar to another of Moriarty’s books, What Alice Forgot.  (Celia was pretty much “new Alice”, while Tess was “old Alice”), but I enjoyed What Alice Forgot, and enjoyed The Husband’s Secret.

We are Water, Wally Lamb (fiction)

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  We are Water is the story of Anna Oh, a middle aged wife, mother and artist.  She leaves her husband of 27 years to be with a woman with whom she has fallen in love.  Wally Lamb tells the story in the alternating voices of Anna and her husband Orion, and their adult children.  Details about their lives come to light from each of their perspectives.  As the story unfolds, we learn of Anna’s very troubled past (some of which is difficult to read), and how her past has affected her life and the lives of her family.  We are Water is a compelling story about the complexities of modern family life.  It brings the reader into the subjects of racism, child molestation, homophobia and finally unconditional love.  I would definitely read more of Wally Lamb’s novels.  He is a compelling story teller.

 

For more of my books of 2013 check of this post or this one