Saturday, December 29, 2018

Books Read in 2018, with Titles for 3.5 and Up (pretty exciting heading, don't you think?)

I finished a total of 69 books this year.  27 of those are 3.5 or higher.  I have my East Coast guru, Melissa, to thank for a bunch of them.  But others have recommended some very good books to me, too.  And some I actually found on my own (go figure)!  Obviously, if you haven't read Harmel, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

In my next post, I will list all books read in 2018, including ratings.

4+ - 1
The Sweetness of Forgetting - Kristin Harmel

4 - 4
The Life Intended - Kristin Harmel
The Room on Rue Amelie - Kristin Harmel
The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain
(1 unpublished)

3.75 - 6
The Love Goddess' Cooking School - Melissa Senate
Still Me - JoJo Moyes
Limelight - Amy Poeppel
How to Walk Away - Kathleen Center
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

3.625 - 2
The Hate We Give - Angie Thomas
The Family Next Door - Sally Hepworth

3.5 - 14
What Lies Beyond the Stars - Michael Goorjian
Before I Go - Colleen Oakley
The Women in the Castle - Jessica Shattuck
The Recipe Box - Maggie Shipman
Three Days Missing - Kimberly Belle
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown
Ghosted - Rosie Walsh
The All-Girls Filling Station's Last Reunion - Fannie Flagg
The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain
The Way of  Beauty - Camille de Maio
Promise Me You - Marina Adair
My Broken Brain - Jessica Fechtor
The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton
(1 unpublished)

3.25 - 13

3.0 - 18

2.875 - 1

2.75 - 1

2.5 - 7

2.25 - 2

DNF (did not finish) - 5

Thursday, December 13, 2018

I've got a memoir for you...and my 1st Takeaway in a very long time

Stir, MY BROKEN BRAIN AND THE MEALS THAT BROUGHT ME HOME is a very powerful memoir by Jessica Fechtor.  It's interesting because I was sailing along for 62.5 pages, caught up in it but not emotionally connected.  And then BOOM!  Here's what happened to me in the next 14 pages:

BOOM - page  63 -       Jessica and Eli make a mutual commitment
BOOM - page  70 -       the surgeon makes an unexpected comment to Jessica
BOOM - page  75 -       Eli gives Jessica her 1st kiss
BOOM - pages 75-76 - Eli talks to his old girlfriend
BOOM - page  76 -       Sarah, Jessica's mom, reacts to Jessica's announcement about Eli

Now, keep in mind that I read this entire section while walking on the treadmill in a VERY public gym.  Here's this 6' tall guy, walking (relatively) fast, and flat-out crying.  The only good news is that I wasn't crying audibly!  Phew.  Let me point out here that this 14-page section is NOT the only place where I was crying.  It happened a bunch, along with other shows of emotion.  In fact, 2 pages from the end, I may have been heard exclaiming quite loudly "YES!"  That may have happened.

Aside from truly connecting with Jessica, I also was taken with her writing.  It's really, really good and very thought-provoking.  Here are just a couple of examples:

"Baking is an act of generosity, and thereby an act of freedom, since to be generous is to be free from the smallness of thinking only of yourself."  Hmmm...

"...when I went in for the hug, he just barely laid his hands on my back, as if I were a mannequin whose limbs might fall out of their sockets." You can see that, right?

"I checked out of rehab in late September.  I'd missed the season between summer and fall that feels like neither and both.  Just skipped right over it, like an arm on a record player that lifts up from its groove, travels a few rings toward the center, and touches silently back down." We baby boomers can relate to this.

Jessica has a very interesting few pages on the difference between "host" and "guest."  Pay attention to pages 174-177.  We use two completely separate words in the English language.  But, interestingly, that is not the case in other languages.  Take a look.

I told you that I had my first takeaway in a long time.  It's probably been 1-2 years since my last one.  So what did I get out of this book that I want to take with me?  It's about friendship.  Jessica's friend support is extremely inspiring.  I am making the commitment to be a better friend. I look forward to being the friend to my friends like Jessica's friends are to her.  Way cool.

Do I need to tell you to read this?  I don't think so.  I believe that you have gotten the message.

P.S.  There are 27 great recipes in this book that all had a hand in helping Jessica through her ordeal.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Searching for a good romance author? - Look no further than Marina Adair!

Let's start with the synopsis:

Mackenzie Hart has made a career out of writing about eternal love, so when she finds her perfect match in Hunter Kane, she decides to put it all on the line.  Irresistibly charming and drenched in alpha-male swagger, Hunter isn't just the catch of the town - he's Mackenzie's best friend.  Only someone beats her to the altar.  After a fresh start and three years to recover, the last thing Mackenzie expects is for her old life to come knocking...
Recently divorced, musician Hunter Kane wants to reconnect with the woman he left behind.  Admitting his biggest mistake comes first.  What comes next is up to Mackenzie.  He hopes she'll give him a second chance.  He may have been the one to break her heart, but he knows he can also be the one to mend it.
As a tenuous friendship turns into something more, Hunter's life on the road beckons once again.  Will love be enough to keep them together, or will their wildly different worlds be too much for them to overcome?

Not only did I enjoy the heck out of Promise Me You, but Marina (with PMY) is also our RBC author for January.  She's already been to the RBC once before.  And it is truly the book club's pleasure to welcome her back.  But what did I like about this book you ask?  Lots of stuff:

1.  (uh, oh, here he goes...) I had an emotional connection with these characters.
2.  Marina always injects humor into her books.  This one is no exception.
3.  She's a very good writer.  Here are a couple of examples:
"And that kind of magnetic confidence was rare.  The industry term for it was X Factor.
Mackenzie called it swagger.  And Hunter had enough swagger to convince Garth Brooks to sing back-up."
"He was confident...that skipping straight to the chemistry would be like pulling the pin on a grenade:  A few seconds of excitement before everything blew to hell."
4.  I enjoyed that it was based in Nashville.  Local authors more often than not write about local spots.
5.  This is a bit of a spoiler alert, so I will state this gently.  Mackenzie has a physical condition that you don't often see in a romance novel.  I applaud Marina for this plot point.  I thought it ramped up the story line considerably.

People, we all know that a romance novel is, in all likelihood, going to end up with a match.  I'm not giving the ending away.  But, c'mon.  If that's your complaint, GET OVER IT!  Because we also know that just about every mystery novel has a mystery-solving ending.  And just about every legal drama ends up with the accused protagonist being found innocent.  You get my point. Bottom line?  Promise Me You is a very good read.  And if you want to see Marina in person, come to Recycle Bookstore on Wednesday night, January 23, at 7:00.  I guarantee you will enjoy your evening.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

It's time for a review: Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

A couple of months ago, I read and reviewed The All-Girls Filling Station's Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg, based on a recommendation from my friend, Joyce.  I now have another recommendation from Joyce...but it's a different Joyce!  This one is called Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.  I've gotten many recommendations over the years from a big variety of people.  But this might be the first time I've doubled up on a name.  Okay, moving along, here's what WTCS is about:

For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast.  So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.
But Kya is not what they say.  Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand.  Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved.  When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life - until the unthinkable happens.

Delia writes beautifully.  That might be why it took me a while to get into it.  You all know that I'm not that (or, at all) literary.  But once I made the connection, I was off and running.  I had a bunch of emotional reactions:

Chills (multiple)
Emotion (not very specific)
What!?  OMG!

Did it get to me?  Uh, yeah.  There is also a moment about 20 pages from the end where I actually put my hand over the page so that I wouldn't accidentally prematurely see what happens.  And on top of all that, I learned a bunch of stuff about how a lot of wildlife mate.  Now, I can't swear that this was something that drew me to the book.  I mean this could have been TMI!  But, in fact, it wasn't.  Delia blends great writing with unforgettable characters who draw you in.  And if I also learned something along the way, then so be it.

This is one of those books that crosses genres and would be enjoyable for just about any reader.  On Goodreads, the genres listed are Fiction, History/Historical Fiction, and Mystery.  That covers most people, doesn't it?  Regardless of how you answer this question, I definitely recommend Where The Crawdads Sing.  If it's good enough for Reese's Book Club, then it's good enough for all of us...right?