Sunday, January 26, 2020

FFTNFR XII

Ellen Marie Wiseman - What She Left Behind
Ellen Marie Wiseman - The Life She Was Given
Kristen Harmel - The Winemaker's Wife
Kristin Hannah - The Great Alone
Ally Larkin - Swimming for Sunlight
Suzanne Woods Fisher - Mending Fences
Kristen Harmel - When We Meet Again
Barry Eisler - All the Devils
Kate Quinn - The Huntress
Robert Dugoni - The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell (audiobook)
Delia Owens - Where the Crawdads Sing
Sally Field - In Pieces (audiobook)
Renee Rosen - Windy City Blues
Tracey Garvis Graves - The Girl He Used to Know
Sarah Jio - Goodnight June

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Kristin Harmel's When We Meet Again

For those of you who have never read my blog (and you know who you are!), there is an author that I have been extremely high on over the last couple of years.  Her name is Kristin Harmel, and I have just finished my 5th book.  It's called When We Meet Again.  And, big surprise, I liked it a lot.  Here is what it's about:

Emily Emerson is used to being alone; her dad ran out on the family when she was just a kid, her mom died when she was eighteen, and her beloved grandmother has just passed away as well.  But when she's laid off from her reporting job, she finds herself completely at sea...until the day she receives a beautiful, haunting painting of a young woman standing at the edge of a sugarcane field under a violet sky.  That woman is recognizable as her grandmother - and the painting arrives with no identification other than a handwritten note saying, "He never stopped loving her."
Emily is hungry for roots and family, so she begins to dig.  And as she does, she uncovers a fascinating era in American history.  Her trail leads her to the World War II POW internment camps in Florida, where the German prisoners worked for American farmers...and sometimes fell in love with American women.  But how does this all connect to the painting?  The answer to that question will take Emily from the sweltering Everglades to Munich, Germany, and back to the Atlanta art scene before she's done.
Along the way, she finds herself tempted to tear down her carefully tended walls at last; she's seeing another side of her father, and a new angle on her painful family history.  But she still has secrets, ones she's kept locked inside for years.  Will this journey bring her the strength to confront them at last?

Let me tell you what I liked about this book:
1.  I am a big fan of historical fiction.  And as you have seen from Harmel's The Room on Rue Amelie, The Sweetness of Forgetting, and The Winemaker's Wife, and, now, When We Meet Again, nobody does it any better.
2.  Did you know that German prisoners actually worked on farms here in the U.S. during WWII?  Neither did I.  When you read WWMA, you'll find out how many there were.  And I think it will blow your mind.  It sure did mine.
3.  My favorite historical fiction novels are the ones that go back and forth from then to now.  This one certainly does that.
4.  Kristin has created a book that mixes in mystery tied into the historical elements.
5.  And let's not forget that there might even be a love story to enjoy.
6.  Finally, and probably most importantly for me, I emotionally connected to the characters.  You all know how important that is to me.  I never have to worry about that with Kristin's books.

So there you have it.  I will end by quoting from notes I took while reading:  "I'm tired of doing nothing but praise Harmel.  But what can I do?"



Sunday, January 5, 2020

Books in 2019 by Genre

You will be happy to know that this is the 4th, AND FINAL, year-end post. We went from 15 genres in 2017 to 7 in 2018.  This year we split the difference.  We have 11.  But the distribution is crazy.  Last year there were 44 out of 69 in the literature and fiction section.  And the other 6 genres were all in the single digits.  This year we have 10 more books read/listened to and 15 LESS books in the literature and fiction section. On top of that, 3 other genres are in the double digits!  Here's the breakdown:

Literature and Fiction - 29

Historical Fiction - 15

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense - 13

Memoir - 11

Romance - 2

Non-Fiction/Self-Help - 2

Romantic Comedy - 2

Poetry (yep, poetry) - 2

Fantasy/Paranormal - 2

Young Adult - 1

Religious Fiction - 1

80


Friday, January 3, 2020

New Authors (for me) in 2019

The 2018 list had, for me, 44 new authors.  And in 2019 I hit 48.  I have to confess, though, that the total includes 7 authors who I discovered in audiobooks.  But books are books!

Gail Honeyman
Charles Belfoure
Lizbeth Meredith
Ellen Marie Wiseman - 2
Mark Greaney
Jandy Nelson
Michael Gerber
Erin Gordon
Michelle Obama (audiobook)
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Jill Santopolo
Rich Amooi - 2
Laurie Halse Anderson
Phaedra Patrick
Kristin Chenowith (audiobook)
Mary Curtis
Aria Glazki
Allie Larkin - 2
Marcia Rosen
Tracey Garvis Graves
Heather Morris
Sally Field (audiobook)
Christina Britton
Meg Donohue
Ellison Cooper
Suzanne Woods Fisher
Amy Mason Doan
Tara Westover (audiobook)
Cassandra Dunn
Trevor Noah (audiobook)
Kari Kelley
Marie Benedict
Mary Beth Keane
Brian Holsinger
Andrew Bernstein
Ann Mah
Billy Crystal (audiobook)
Kristin Higgins
Mark Sullivan
Robert Dugoni - 2 (1 audiobook)
Julianne Guthrie
Catherine Chung
Jeanine Cummins
Stephen Hauser
Jeff Lindsay
Sheryl Sandberg (audiobook)
Colson Whitehead
Renee Rosen

48


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Books in 2019

You know the drill.  I'm listing the 80 books I read or listened to in the order that they were read or listened to (redundant much?):

A Column of Fire - Ken Follett - 3.5
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman - 3.25
The Beautiful Stranger - Camille di Maio - 3.5
The Paris Architect - Charles Belfoure - 3.375
Liars' Paradox - Taylor Stevens - 2.75
Pieces of Me - Lizbeth Meredith - 3.25
What She Left Behind - Ellen Marie Wiseman - 4.0
Mission Critical - Mark Greaney - 3.0
I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson - 3.25
Run Away - Harlan Coben - 3.0
The EMyth Revisited - Michael Gerber
Beshcert - Erin Gordon - 3.5
Becoming (audiobook) - Michelle Obama - 3.25
Daisy Jones & the Six - Taylor Jenkins Reid - 3.25
More than Words - Jill Santopolo - 3.25
The Killer Collective - Barry Eisler - 3.5
The Life She Was Given - Ellen Marie Wiseman - 3.75
Madam Love, Actually - Rich Amooi - 3.5
SHOUT - Laurie Halse Anderson - 3.0
The Memory of Us - Camille di Maio - 3.5
The Library of Lost and Found - Phaedra Patrick - 3.5
A Little Bit Wicked (audiobook) - Kristen Chenowith - 3.0
The Winemaker's Wife - Kristin Harmel - 4.0
The White Tree Quartet - Mary Curtis
In Another Time - Jillian Cantor - 3.0
The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah - 3.75
Hot Shot - Sheldon Siegel - 3.0
Fallen - Aria Glazki - 3.25
Swimming for Sunlight - Allie Larkin - 3.75
Dead in Bed - Marcia Rosen - 2.0
Searching for Family and Traditions - French Table-Carole Bumpus-3.0
The Girl He Used to Know - Tracey Garvis Graves - 3.75
The Tatooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris - 3.25
The Pines - Blake Crouch - 3.0
In Pieces (audiobook) - Sally Field - 4.0
With Love in Sight - Christina Britton - 3.25
The Violets of March - Sarah Jio - 3.25
Murder in Bel-Air - Cara Black - 2.5
The Last Train to London - Meg Waite Clayton - 3.5
Stolen Things - Rachael Herron - 3.0
You, Me, and the Sea - Meg Donohue - 3.25
Caged - Ellison Cooper - 3.25
Mending Fences - Suzanne Woods Fisher - 3.75
Dear Wife - Kimberly Belle - 3.25
Summer Hours - Amy Mason Doan
Educated (audiobook) - Tara Westover - 2.5
The Art of Adapting - Cassandra Dunn - 3.25
Born a Crime (audiobook) - 3.5
The New Girl - Daniel Silva - 3.625
The Lost Girls of Paris - Pam Jenoff - 3.5
Mr. Crotchety - Rich Amooi - 3.0
Lost Summer - Kerry Londale - 2.75
Black, Blind, and Female - Keri Kelley - 3.0
Ask Again, Yes - Mary Beth Keane - 3.0
Reluctant Hood - Kendrai Meeks - 2.5
The Only Woman in the Room - Marie Benedict - 3.625
The Gifted School - Brian Holsinger - 3.25
Not Guilty - C. Lee McKenzie - 3.0
When We Meet Again - Kristin Harmel - 3.75
California Slim:  The Music, the Magic, and the Madness - Andrew Bernstein - 3.0
The Lost Vintage - Ann Mah - 3.25
Me For You - Lolly Winston - 3.0
Still Foolin' 'Em (audiobook) - Billy Crystal - 3.375
All the Devils - Barry Eisler - 4.0
The Huntress - Kate Quinn - 3.75
Good Luck with That - Kristin Higgins - 3.5
The Fountains of Silence - Ruta Sepetys - 3.25
Beneath a Scarlet Sky - Mark Sullivan - 3.5
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell - Robert Dugoni - 4.0
Alpha Girls - Julian Guthrie - 3.0
The Tenth Muse - Catherine Chung - 3.25
American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins - 3.5
The Wickett Sisters in Hell - Stephen Houser - 2.75
Primary Target - John Billheimer - 2.5
Just Watch Me - Jeff Lindsay - 3.5
Lean In (audiobook) - Sheryl Sandberg - 2.75
The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead - 3.0
Windy City Blues - Renee Rosen - 4.0
The Eighth Sister - Robert Dugoni - 3.5
Why Can't I Be You - Allie Larkin

80


Monday, December 30, 2019

Books 3.5/4 and up in 2019

Here are the books I read/listened to that I rated 3.5/4 or up.  The total is 31 out of 79, an average of 39%!  That doesn't count a bunch of 3.25s and 3.0s.  It was a darn good year.  And for all of you who recommended books that are on this list...THANK YOU!

4.0 - 6
What She Left Behind - Ellen Marie Wiseman
The Winemaker's Wife - Kristin Harmel
In Pieces - Sally Field (audiobook)
All the Devils - Barry Eisler
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell - Robert Dugoni (audiobook)
Windy City Blues - Renee Rosen

3.75 - 7
The Life She Was Given - Ellen Marie Wiseman
The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah
Swimming for Sunlight - Allie Larkin
The Girl He Used to Know - Tracey Garvis Graves
Mending Fences - Suzanne Woods Fisher
When We Meet Again - Kristin Harmel
The Huntress - Kate Quinn

3.625 - 2
The New Girl - Daniel Silva
The Only Woman in the Room - Marie Benedict

3.5 - 15
A Column of Fire - Ken Follett
The Beautiful Stranger - Camille Di Maio
Beschert - Erin Gordon
The Killer Collective - Barry Eisler
Madam Love, Actually - Rich Amooi
The Memory of Us - Camille Di Maio
The Library of Lost and Found - Phaedra Patrick
The Last Train to London - Meg Waite Clayton
Born a Crime - Trevor Noah (audiobook)
The Lost Girls of Paris - Pam Jenoff
Good Luck with That - Kristan Higgins
Beneath a Scarlet Sky - Mark Sullivan
American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins
Just Watch Me - Jeff Lindsay
The Eighth Sister - Robert Dugoni
Why Can't I Be You - Allie Larkin

Total - 31

Friday, December 27, 2019

A Review That Took Me Way Too Long To Post

Back in May, I read Swimming for Sunlight, by Allie Larkin.  I loved it. And we already had her scheduled to come to the RBC in November.  So why haven't I written a review, you ask?  For the same reason I haven't written dozens of others!...I don't know.  But it is what it is, as they say. In any case, and even though I included it in my list of 22 books that I recommend you all read, I want to take a couple of minutes to give it its own post.  Here's the storyline:

Katie Ellis gave up everything in her divorce to gain custody of her fearful, faithful rescue dog, Bark. Anxious about her next steps, she returns to her hometown in Florida to live with her grandmother Nan.
In her youth, Nan was a mermaid performer in a roadside attraction show, swimming and dancing underwater with a close-knit cast of talented women.  Most of the mermaids have since lost touch, but Katie helps Nan search for her old friends online, sparking hopes for a reunion show and reigniting Katie's crippling fear of water.  Katie offers to design their costumes.  As the show takes shape, she struggles to balance her hopes with her anxiety, and begins to realize just how much Bark's fears are connected to her own in this charming novel about hope after loss and friendships that span generations.

Allie combines humor with many poignant moments (aka I cried a lot!). Plus her writing is excellent.  At one point, Katie's grandma wants Katie to sit with grandma's friends.  Here is Katie's reaction:
"Sitting by the pool to chat with the ladies would be like squeezing a lemon with a hand covered in paper cuts."  That doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it?

A couple of things stick out for me in this book:
1.  I loved all of the characters.  That doesn't happen too often.
2.  In most books, my biggest flowing moments are toward the end.  In SfS, it happened throughout (although I actually sobbed 38 pages from the end).

And, finally, every once in a while a get a takeaway from a book.  It's pretty rare, but when it does happen, it leaves me with something that I actually try to incorporate into my life.  In this case, it's this:  "I was going to be the person who showed up for her because friendship is a love story too."  For me, this is right on.

So, despite the fact that a dog is a central character in Swimming for Sunlight (you all know that I tend to stay away from animal-centric books, although I did like The Art of Racing in the Rain), I highly recommend this book.  And out of 11 people who read it and came to the RBC meeting, the lowest rating was a 3.75/4!  Are you kidding me? That's unheard of.  Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.