In a post at the beginning of 2014 I named this the year of reading all the books I already have, and vowed to read only those until I’ve read them all. Except for book club choices. They can be new. But I’m stopping the library obsession until I’ve read my house. Okay, I’m going to start this list off with a book from the library. Yeah, just exactly what I talked about in that books post. But it is so good, I just have to write about it. Here goes:
The Making of June, by Annie Nigh Ward. I thought this book would be fluffy, but I was surprised. It is such a picture of living with uncertainty and difficulty, and gives a different look at the face of an American versus a person who is from a darker sort of culture. It’s hard to explain, I guess, but I can’t put it down.
So, there. Now I’ll start reading what is on my bookshelves. Unless I get trapped by the library tomorrow. It’s open on Sunday, can you believe it?
1. A Hundred Flowers, by Gail Tsukiyama. This author has long been one of my very favorites. The book sat for a couple of months on my night stand, until this week, when I decided it would be the first of my resolution books. It’s such a lovely read. Graceful, it pulled me in to the lives of a Chinese family in the late 1950s. Beautiful. 5 Stars!
2. This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathon Tropper. Hm. I’m not sure what to say about this one. It’s our book of the month for my book club, and I didn’t choose it. However, I liked it a lot. It opens with a graphic sex scene which is funny and sad at the same time. The story and the underlying thoughts about love and family are funny and touching. I was sorry when it ended. 5 Stars!
3. When We Were Strangers, by Pamela Schoenwaldt. One of my iPad stash. The story of an Italian girl who immigrates to the U.S. in the late 1800s. Similar to others I’ve read, in fact I thought I’d read it before, but I hadn’t. Totally readable, enjoyable, yet maybe not all that memorable. 4 Stars.
4. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I really enjoyed this book. I’m not sure what I expected, but I’m sure it wasn’t the complexity of this book. I recommend it! 4.5 stars.
5. Divergent by Veronica Roth. Wow, this is a page turner. It’s kind of Hunger Games-ish, and I might be almost over that (I’m reading both Hunger Games and Catching Fire at school), but it’s a great read. I will have to move on the the second book of the trilogy, because of course this one leaves the reader hanging. I will say, the move from one action packed phase of the book to the next, completely different action packed phase of the book is a little sudden for my taste. I think I’d have liked to see that developed a little more. But. It’s a good read. 4 stars
6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth. This is the continuation of the Divergent series. A page turner of sorts, but I’m not sure I’ll read the final book in the trilogy. I”m just not a big fan of post-apocalyptic novels. It was hard to keep up with the plot for all the fighting and intrigue. 3 stars
7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This one I read for my bookclub. It’s long and intricate, really a wonderful read. It left me thinking and thinking about it. The author is adept at placing the main character in different life situations, moving from one to another quickly but smoothly. I enjoyed it and recommend it, as long as you like long and intricate. Next I’m reading something lighter and quicker! 5 stars
8. Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge. This book was just what I was hoping for. It was fast and intriguing and a really good story. I liked it that all the loose ends were tied up by the end of it. (I just noticed that my comments on this list are not helping me remember what the books are about at all, so I’ll change that, starting now.) This is the story of three families who live on Orcas Island. It spans three generations of loves and tragedies. The focal point is a portrait painted two generations ago by a man of his secret lover. 4 Stars.
I think I might modify my house reading plan to every other book being one from my bookshelves…I just got three new ones from Amazon. Gulp.
9. Zen Under Fire by Marianne Elliott. This is a memoir of the author’s time in Afghanistan working as a human rights worker with the United Nations. Her story is incredible, so brave and diplomatic. The part that really struck me was her learning to maintain her center in the face of such turmoil. The book is a good lesson for me in that, even if I can’t even imagine the Afghanistan part.
10. Americanah by Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. This was such a good book. It’s the story of a Nigerian woman who comes to the U.S. to live. She goes to college and becomes a well known professional blogger. Eventually she decides to leave everything behind and return to Nigeria, where she re-encounters her old love and finds herself as well.
11. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I read this as a book club selection. It’s a curiously formal story of some people at the state of life in which anything can happen, and whatever does will shape the direction of the rest. I enjoyed it a great deal. (UPDATE: I do not remember one single thing about this book. I think I could reread it and think it’s for the first time. I wonder if I’d enjoy it twice. Maybe I’ll go review it and see if I can remember anything. I must have slept through the whole thing. Weird.)
My gosh, I just realized that at the rate I’m going, I’ll finish the books in my house in about 2017. I guess I’d better step it up a little.
12. The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande. This is the next Book In Common for CSU Chico. It’s a heart-breaking memoir by a woman whose parents left her and her siblings in Mexico with an unwilling grandmother while they went north to the United States to work. They wanted to save enough money to build the family a home in Mexico. It is a common story of children who are left behind when their parents go north to make the money that they believe will be easy to earn here, so their lives are a little less desperate at home. I know so many kids whose story resonates with this one. I chose it as our book club choice this month.
13. How to Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway. This novel is the story of a Japanese war bride, and it is built around an old manual for war brides, with each chapter addressing another challenge faced by immigrant brides in the late 1940s. It was captivating and I recommend it.
14. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. (Reread) I reread this book with pen in hand, in preparation for my writing retreat next month. It was an interesting experience to mark the book up. I never do that! And I was unable to find a used copy any place in town, or even a new one. I had to order it. Weird. If you haven’t read it, do so. It’s great.
15. Out of the Shadows by Kimberly Carlson. This was certainly captivating. It’s about a young woman who has had a tragedy in her life, and is a little lost. She gets a mysterious job, and ultimately ends up going to Chad to learn about the Darfurian refugees up close. It’s good but a little too vague. I don’t feel it really ties together as well as it should. The weirdest part is that it’s published upside down and backward, so I had to read from right to left. It was amazing how easily I adapted to doing that. Anyway. It’s okay. Not top ten though.
16. Owl Medicine by Lisa Weikel. This is a compelling memoir of a spiritual transformation, or at least the beginning of one. Lisa is now an accomplished shaman, and continues to write of her journey. I’m glad I read this one.
17. Perfection by Julie Metz. This was really enjoyable in a Chick Lit kind of way. It’s about a woman whose husband dies in her arms one afternoon and she must pick up the pieces and move on. The thing is, she discovers a little later that he had another life that she knew nothing about. So it’s about betrayal after the fact, when she has to come to terms with it without him. So she’s mourning and lashing out at the same time. Interesting.
18. One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus. This is historical fiction with an emphasis on the fiction part. The book is based on a request made in 1854 at a peace conference with the Cheyenne that the white authorities give them 1000 white women to marry Cheyenne men. Because the Native American society is matrilineal, this seemed to the Cheyenne a perfect way to assimilate the two cultures. Of course it never happened, but this story assumes it did. It’s a fascinating read.