Starting in 2014 I am trying out a ten-point rating system. Possibility of 2 points each for: Writing; Plot; Characters; Ending; Cover. (if I LOVE everything about a book except its cover, I will give it the two points anyway.) I only award a perfect 10 if I love it so much that I want to reread it sometime in the future.
10...love it so much I want to read it again sometime in the future!
7...I liked it
6...I liked parts of it, but left me wanting
4...oh dear, why did I bother?
1...angry I wasted time and/or money on it, and that giant sucking sound is me flushing it down the toilet
Books read in 2018
The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles...I rate it 9/10 (finished 2/11/2018) Read this after reading News of the World also by this author. This is a novel based on actual events, and are on par with Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. Ms. Jiles is a new favorite author. 
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson...I rate it 6/10 (finished 2/7/2018) Written by a Swede somewhere between the ages of 80 and 100, this was somewhat entertaining, but minimally instructive. It was a quick read at somewhere around 100 pages. 
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi...I rate it 9/10 (finished 1/30/2018) Paul Kalanithi was a scholar earning advanced degrees in English Literature, Human Biology, and History & Philosophy of Science & Medicine before attending medical school and becoming a gifted neurosurgeon. And then in his mid thirties he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. His brilliant mind turned to combining his love of literature and medicine to leaving behind a story of what it means to be a doctor and a patient, and what is truly important in this life. It was a beautiful work. 
News of the World by Paulette Jiles... I rate it 10/10 (finished 1/20/2018) A story about a German settler child who was abducted and adopted by the Kiowa after they killed her family, and about the aging Captain Kidd who agreed to escort her on the long and dangerous trip back to an aunt and uncle. The Captain's sense of honor and principle and grit reminded me a bit of Lonesome Dove's Gus, as did the harsh Texas conditions of weather, travel, and good versus evil. The relationship between the Captain and the captive girl will linger in my thoughts for awhile. 
Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green...I rate it 4/10 (finished 1/13/2018) A young woman who was adopted as a child stumbles onto a mystery after her adoptive mother dies. It took seventy-one chapters to tell a less than satisfying story. Too much going on with too many characters, none of whom were likable. Irrelevant information thrown into the story does not make for good character development. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever read, but it wasn't far from it. 
In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen...I rate it 6/10 (finished 1/4/2018) A WWII spy novel. Lightweight and a little campy. Seemed like a 1940s B-movie. 
Books read in 2017
All the Little Children by Jo Furniss...I rate it 9/10 (finished 12/29/2017) This one was gripping. While a working mother takes her children away for a camping weekend in the English countryside, terrorists unleash a man-made virus that wipes out most of the population of cities and towns. I thought this was very well imagined and told. [52 + 15]
Betrayal by Fern Michaels...I rate it 5/10 (finished 12/27/2018) Not something I really enjoyed. Very contrived and unrealistic in my opinion. [52 + 14]
The Indigo Girl: A Novel by Natasha Boyd...I rate it 9/10 (finished 12/23/2017) Another great book. Based on the life of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and her efforts to bring the raising and processing of indigo crops to South Carolina in the first half of the eighteenth century. It was well researched and written. The author included excerpts of historical letters and journals among the story, and also included an afterword, acknowledgments, and a list for further reading that answered points of curiosity I had about characters and events. [52 + 13]
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel by Matthew Sullivan...I rate it 9/10 (finished 12/19/2017) I really liked this one. I liked its characters. I liked the mystery. I liked the cipher. Not light reading. A lot of quirky/downright troubled people, but it definitely kept me reading. I was so sure she was going to find that ring inside the turkey. [52 + 12]
A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner...I rate it 7/10 (finished 12/12/2017) A ghost story...a medium...WWII...French Resistance...war brides. It seemed a little jumbled, or maybe overambitious? It started out with a lot of seemingly unrelated character stories. They did get joined together, but it wasn't very satisfying. [52 + 11]
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt...I rate it 8/10 (finished 12/8/2017) Based on the 1892 murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. I've read several books on the topic, all of which stuck to the facts of the case. This one is an imagining of what ifs, and it is written in a somewhat Gothic style. Interesting. [52 + 10]
A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain...I rate it 5/10 (finished 12/1/2017) Giving this a score of 5 out of 10 was being generous. The writing was pretty awful, and leaned heavily on stereotypical television crime shows. I absolutely hated that as a woman jolted two hundred years back in time, the main character wouldn't try to blend in at all, or just be QUIET. Supposedly her parents were super scientists who were into developing designer babies, and she was their wunderkind...a genius. Well, if you ask me, she was dumber than a stump. Only that's being rather unfair, because the character is only as dumb as the person who wrote her. [9 outside of challenge]
The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas...I rate it 10/10 (finished 11/24/2017) This was my second reading of this one. It was just as good on the second reading, and I had forgotten so much of it that I was surprised by it all over again. And this one concludes my 2017 Reading Challenge! 
Lucinda's Solution by Nancy Roman...I rate it 9.5/10 (finished 11/20/2017) In general, I am not a crier; this book had me wiping tears away so they wouldn't slow down my reading three different times. The author blogs at NotQuiteOld, which I have followed for awhile now. I liked her first book. I loved this one! [8 outside of challenge]
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf...I rate it 10/10 (finished 11/16/2017) A septuagenarian woman approaches a neighbor, the widower of a former acquaintance, with a proposal. She wonders if he might sleep with her...just to hear someone breathing in the bed next to her at night, to talk to in the dark. It was such a sweet story, and the Netflix Original movie version with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda was wonderful as well. [7 outside of challenge]
Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller...I rate it 9/10 (finished 11/14/2017) I was never the biggest Little House fan, but this sounded interesting...the characters from the Little House series, but the story is told from the point of view of the mother, Caroline. It seemed to be well researched, and it was very well written. [6 outside of challenge]
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman...I rate it 6/10 (finished 11/9/2017) Well, my opinion of books from Oprah's book club remains intact. This was so dark with irredeemable characters and an insipid female main character. The writing was erratic...at times it went over the top with metaphors...and at times it had me marking the page with quotes I wanted to read again and again. Definitely not my favorite by this author. 
A Column of Fire by Ken Follett...I rate it 8.5/10 (finished 11/1/2017) Third in the Kingsbridge trilogy. I liked it more than the second (World Without End) but less than the first (The Pillars of the Earth). The story was very good, the history was as well, and I felt it put some things in context for me that I'd not been able to keep track of before. The number of characters was daunting, and there were a few times at the beginning that the dialog seemed uninspired or amateurish (which really surprised me), or where modern phrasing felt out of place ('...talking trash...' in the 16th century?) But overall it was very enjoyable. 
The Practice House by Laura McNeal...I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 10/16/2017) This started well, but I was disappointed towards the end, though the very end was better. The characters were quite well developed. Scottish sisters immigrate to America. One accepts teaching job and travels alone to Kansas during dust bowl. [5 outside of challenge]
The Child by Fiona Barton...I rate it 9/10 (finished 10/12/2017) I can't believe I finished this one when I have SO much else to be doing, but I had a hard time putting it down. I liked it very much more than The Widow by the same author read previously this year. The same writing device was used (each chapter from a different character's point of view) but it didn't bother me nearly as much in this one...just a better story. I did figure out the hook way before it was revealed, but it was still very enjoyable. [4 outside of challenge]
Faithful by Alice Hoffman...I rate it 8/10 (finished 10/7/2017) This one started out pretty dark, and I wasn't sure I was going to stick it out, but I'm glad I did. Two teenage girls crash on an icy road: one one suffers debilitating injuries, one suffers overwhelming guilt. The author has such a beautiful way of developing characters and relationships. [3 outside of challenge]
Dolly Madison: Quaker Girl by Helen Albee Monsell...(finished 10/5/2017) This one fulfills the a-book-you-loved-as-a-child category of the 2017 reading challenge. It is a part of a set of books called 'Childhood of Famous Americans,' and I must have read each book in the set at least five times each. They are very simplistic, but they are for very young readers. Even so, they are well written, and present the subjects, their families, their communities, and historic and personal events which touched their lives. 
Slow Dancing With a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer's by Meryl Comer...I rate it 8/10 (finished 10/5/2017) This is a very compelling look into the family impact of a brutal disease. There were a few instances of confusing chronology, but overall it was very well written and edited. 
The Women In the Castle by Jessica Shattuck...I rate it 8/10 (finished 10/1/2017) When a group of resistors are executed after a failed attempt on Hitler's life, the wife of their leader keeps her promise to help the other widows. While they develop deep friendships, they also keep even deeper secrets. [2 outside of challenge]
Too Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal by Ann Rule...I rate it 9/10 (finished 9/23/2017) The author always does an excellent job of weaving the facts into an interesting story and remaining sympathetic to the victims' families. 
Confessions of a Surgeon: The Good, The Bad, and the Complicated...Life Behind the O.R. Doors by Paul A. Ruggieri, M.D. ...I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 9/14/2017) A fairly easy read that held my attention. The sections that had dialog with patients or other doctors were a little stilted (e.g. repeating the other person's name in every sentence). The end got a little preachy about the way healthcare is headed. I understand and don't disagree, just thought it could have been presented in a different way, but since the writer is a surgeon first, I am willing to 'cut' him a little slack. 
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry... I rate it 8/10 (finished 9/13/2017) The period is Victorian, and I thought the writing style was very representative of the period. I enjoyed the story even though I didn't identify greatly with any of the characters. I found myself thinking several times that it would make an amazing television drama production. 
The Search by Nora Roberts...I rate it 8.5/10 (finished 9/9/2017) Fiona was the lone survivor of a serial killer. Years later she has a successful business training dogs and volunteers on a search and rescue team. Then a copy-cat killer seems to be sending threats to her, and she has to face that part of her life again. The dog training tips and the humorous repartee between her and her new love interest make this book my favorite of Nora Roberts' work. 
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown...I rate it 9/10 (finished 9/3/2017) True story of the University of Washington rowing team. Made up of working-class young men...farmers, loggers, janitors, dam builders working their way through school...the team went up against the Ivy League schools and won their way in the elite sport of rowing to represent the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. 
The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley...I rate it 7/10 (finished 8/31/2017) Not horrible/not great. I didn't really love any of the characters. Famous pianist's husband and toddler die in a car accident. She retreats in grief. Eventually begins building a relationship with an old acquaintance and feels she can face a new life. During this time she is also learning about the history behind the estate where her grandparents lived and worked and secrets are uncovered. 
Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo...I rate it 8/10 (finished 8/28/2017) I heard a review on the radio that gave this high marks. Since it's setting is the area that we will be visiting on our upcoming vacation, I picked this one up at the library in the hopes that it would give me a foretaste of the area. The story was good...reminiscent of Patricia Cornwell's early Kay Scarpetta books which I used to love. Not sure if this was not quite up to those or if my expectations have changed. Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy this one, just that I'm not sure I will rush to read more of the series. [1 outside of challenge]
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith...I rate it 7/10 Took me over a month to finish it, and about half way through I started skimming sections that were too bogged down in detail for me. It did seem to be very well researched. I think I might have found it easier if I had been reading a physical book rather than an ebook version. The page count was really off on my Kindle, and even on the last 'page' of the book, it indicated that I was only 71% completed. It seemed very disheartening as I was reading because it indicated so little progress was being made. 
The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly...I rate it 9/10 Set during the days leading up to and following the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River, the worst flooding disaster in US history. There were bootleggers, revenuers, an orphaned baby, and the character development was excellent. It took me an age to finish, but that was not the fault of the book, but of my schedule and forgetfulness when I left it over a weekend at the clinic. 
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik...I rate it 8.5/10 (finished 7/29/2017) This is one I would not have chosen if not to fulfill a category of the 2017 reading challenge. Pleasant surprise! It was very well written, the characters were engaging, and it took no time at all for me to suspend disbelief and get into the story. 
The Widow by Fiona Barton...I rate it 7/10 (finished 7/25/2017) Really good plot, but I am weary of the writing device that is so prevalent these days; having chapters shift between characters' point of view. It made it a little hard to follow the timeline. I also was a little disappointed in the ending. If it had been written differently, even the same outcome would have been more satisfying for me. 
The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran...I rate it 9/10 (finished 7/9/2017) I rushed through this, not wanting to put it down. In the late 1800s a family moves from England to New Zealand where the wife and children are abducted by a Maori tribe and kept captive. Believing that it was his wife's body that was found in their burned out home, the husband spends months searching for the children, but finally accepts that they could not have survived. But they did, as did his wife, and after years of captivity, they escape and return to civilization. His determined family endures much hardship and harrowing journeys to reunite with him, only to find that he has just remarried. While they are making efforts to figure out where their situation leaves them, the community ostracizes them and eventually prosecutes them. Based on actual court actions, this novel was very well imagined and written. 
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina...I rate it 9/10 (finished 7/8/2017) I just realized that my rating system is based on rating fiction. Since this one is non-fiction, I'm not sure how to rate it. I give it a 9/10 because I found the science very interesting, the information presented clearly and understandable for laymen, and it kept me reading (albeit slowly and with other fun reading interspersed). 
The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff...I rate it 7/10 (finished 7/5/2017) The book started strong, but the writing in the second half left me wanting. World War II circus sheltering Jews among their staff. And this may be nitpicking, but I didn't find the title accurate. It wasn't really a tale of the orphan, but of the brave women that sheltered the orphan...it kind of felt like a rip off of the orphan train stories...especially with the cover art. 
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh...I rate it 8.5/10 (finished 6/29/2017) The story opens with a hit and run accident, and it proceeds with the police investigation. I really enjoyed the story, and I was completely blindsided by a plot twist that quite literally made me gasp. It did have a 'coincidence' that was pretty unbelievable, but all in all it kept me reading until the wee hours when I finally finished it less than 24 hours before I started. 
The Bees: A Novel by Laline Paull...I rate it 8.5/10 (finished 6/15/2017) Described as The Handmaid's Tale meets The Hunger Games, I would hesitate to label this 'dystopian' because it is, after all, a beehive not a human society. The reader follows the colony through dangers from outside enemies and elements, and from inside changes. I found it much more enjoyable than expected! I might even say it's a triumph of anthropomorphism. :) 
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner...I rate it 8/10 (finished 6/9/2017) The friendship of two couples through decades. It wasn't an easy read. The characters were very real, not always likable or easy to take. 
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe...I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 5/29/2017) Memoir of the author's family and their experiences as his mother is fighting pancreatic cancer; in particular the books and discussions that the author and his mother shared during her chemo treatments. I have mixed feelings. The family is totally out of my realm of experience, so I had a hard time relating to their politics, lifestyle, experiences, and reading preferences. I have, however, spent a lot of time with a parent in doctors' waiting and exam rooms, so could completely put myself in the moment with them. Of all the books mentioned in this memoir, I believe I have read only one; and it didn't really make me want to read any of the ones that I hadn't read. It was a very lofty reading list. 
The Forgetting Time: A Novel by Sharon Guskin...I rate it 8/10 (finished 5/18/2017) When a four-year-old boy is having phobias and nightmares and trouble at his daycare, his mother is losing work and spending her retirement savings to try to help him, and battling her skepticism when it seems that he may be having memories of a previous life. Well written and engrossing story and characters. Inspired by the work of researchers of children who experience past-life memories, the author cited the case studies of one of the researchers who consulted with her on this novel. 
The Old man by Thomas Perry...I rate it 10/10 (finished 5/15/2017) The best book I've read this year! If you like his Jane Whitefield novels (Vanishing Act is my favorite), then you will love this one. 
My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry...I rate it 8/10 (finished 5/12/2017) It really kept me reading, and I almost gave it a '9,' but the ending got a little 'busy' tying up all those loose ends. 
Chronicles of Steele: Raven: The Complete Story by Pauline Creeden...I rate it 7/10 (finished 5/7/2017) I have never had any inclination whatsoever to read steampunk. That said, I enjoyed it more than I thought. Will I read more in this genre? Probably not. Still it surprises me that the categories of the 2017 reading challenge that I thought would be the most unpleasant have been far more palatable than some I expected to be a breeze. This one marked my halfway point in the challenge. :) 
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson...I rate it ??? I can't decide between a 1/ or a 4/10 (finished 5/3/2017) Really difficult. Impossible to follow the plot through all the detailed description of everything real and imagined. I skimmed great quantities of this, but then would have to go back to pick up the threads of the story again. I was drowning in the poetic descriptiveness, and the author couldn't be bothered to throw the reader a lifesaver. Why are these books the ones that win awards? It pisses me off! I mean really. Spew the most useless drivel and waste readers' time. I will not be wasting one more moment with this author. 
Open Season by C. J. Box...I rate it 8/10 (finished 4/29/2017) Enjoyed this. First in a series about a game warden. Very likable main character; strong quiet type with a strong moral code and strong life skills; a family man with healthy relationships. Great mix of mystery, danger, beautiful wilderness and wildlife. I will read others in this series, and I think Carey will like them as well. 
Old Friends by Tracy Kidder...I rate it 8/10 (finished 4/26/2017) I really love Tracy Kidder's work. It amazes me, actually. I think I would have enjoyed this one more if I had read it when it first came to my attention years ago. Now it cut a little too close to the bone for me. It made me feel a bit like I am walking a tightrope. It's not so much that I feel old age creeping up on me, but more like I feel middle age creeping away. 
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)...I rate it 4/10 (finished 4/21/2017) I liked the two main characters, private investigator and his secretary, but I thought the auxiliary characters and the story itself was pretty unenjoyable. 
The Recipe Club: A novel about food and friendship by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel...I rate it 3/10 (finished 4/9/2017) If you still like reading Nancy Drew books you might like this. I thought it was very immature. I didn't much like any of the characters. I didn't buy the cooking angle...I mean with such self-involved mothers, I don't much see ten year olds having a lot of opportunity to learn to cook. Just drivel. I wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't needed a book to fill the book-about-food category of the 2017 reading challenge. 
The Book of Speculation: A Novel by Erika Swyler...I rate it 6/10 (finished 4/6/2017) Such mixed feelings. I wasn't crazy about it, and yet I kept reading because I wanted to see how it ended...which wasn't as satisfying as I had hoped. I didn't really like any of the main characters, though I did like a couple of the supporting characters. I can't recommend it. 
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue...I rate it 9/10 (finished 3/26/2017) I love Emma Donoghue's writing. Where some writers stick to similar topics or time periods, each of her stories is so different...different centuries, countries, character dynamics. This one was a little slow starting out. A private nurse is hired to observe a child who has undertaken a religious fast for the past four months. Accustomed to the hard work of nursing, Lib does not take well to the limitations of simply watching the child without trying to help her or to the religious fervor of family and community members. The ending was completely unexpected. I'm not sure I agree with it, but it was an interesting twist. 
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan...I rate it 8/10 (finished 3/19/2017) A novel written in the form of letters and journal entries. The women of the village of Chilbury get on with the business of life as WWII draws frighteningly close to home. It read a little like movies from the 40s. A little light on plot, but pleasant characters and scenery. 
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin...I rate it 8/10 (finished 3/11/2017) When an oncoming storm cancels all flights, an orthopedic surgeon charters a flight to try to make his connecting flight before the storm hits. Since there is room for one more on the plane, he offers it to his seatmate on his previous commercial flight whose cancelled flight may cancel her wedding. It was not a full-on romance story...there were useful survival skills and medical information that were very interesting...but I solved the plot twist about halfway through. That part of the story lost my interest, but the survival drama kept me rapt. I look forward to seeing the movie when it released in the fall. 
Kindred by Octavia Butler...I rate it 6/10 (finished 3/3/2017) Dana, a young African American woman suffers an intense feeling of dizziness, and finds she has instantly been whisked across time and miles and into the antebellum south, but she is back at home with her husband in a matter of seconds. Frighteningly, these episodes continue; each stay in the past progressively lasts from minutes to days, but takes only seconds to hours out of her present life. It was an okay read, but there were too many incidents for which I could not suspend my disbelief. Dana's travels backward in time were at the 'call' of her slave-owner ancestor when he was in life-threatening situations. It was never explained why he was the only person who had this power over her. She was only able to travel back to her own time when she was in fear for her own life. And when she traveled back to her own time, she just disappeared right in front of people, and yet when she returned to the past, these same people just accepted her back with no fear, or superstition, or even gossip. 
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter...I rate it 9/10 (finished 2/22/2017) On a brutally cold morning, the library staff in Spencer, Iowa heard a noise coming from the book return drop box. It was a tiny kitten with a big life ahead of him, all nineteen years of which were spent in the library, but the library couldn't limit his story. He gained worldwide attention just by being himself. 
Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman...I rate it 9/10 (finished 2/20/2017) This one fulfilled "a book that takes place over a character's life span" category of the 2017 Reading Challenge. In this case, the 'character' is the house. Built shortly before the Revolutionary War by a Cape Cod sailor who only wanted to stay home with his family and farm, the constant character in this book is the house itself, and the stories of its inhabitants through the years were beautifully told. I could hardly put it down. 
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley...I rate it 10/10 (finished 2/18/2017) I don't usually read YA books, but this was recommended very highly in the comments section of a blog that I enjoy. I went to library website, and it was available as an ebook, so I checked it out. It really is wonderful. Ten-year-old Ada and her 6-year-old brother Jamie escape their abusive mother by being evacuated with other London children during World War II. They are housed by a woman who is grieving her own losses, but together they find healing. It is written in a way that young readers can understand, but it is beautifully written and it hardly crossed my mind that it wasn't a book written for adults. 
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach...I rate it 8.5/10 (finished 2/16/2017) I liked it very much. I would have given it a 9, but there were SO many characters, and I was frequently distracted by trying to remember who was who. Now I have to see the movie. 
Death of a Valentine: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery by M. C. Beaton...I rate it 7/10 (finished 2/12/2017) Another light mystery in the Scottish Highlands. This time Hamish solved three murders and was rescued by the beautiful Elspeth from being murdered himself as well as from marriage by a scheming constable assigned to his station. 
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride...I rate it 7/10 (finished 2/9/2017) I liked the characters very much. After awhile the excessive descriptions got a bit tiresome, and I found myself skimming quite a bit. I really liked the new slant that the author took on history by introducing Onion, and the telling of 'her' life with the Brown abolitionists with humor and imagination. 
The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck...I rate it 8/10 (finished 1/31/2017) The inner workings of the main character kept me very engaged, but what I believe I will take away from it is the spotlight it shone on the differences between 1960 and 2017. Amazing. 
Never Too Late by Jo Barney...I rate it 6/10 (finished 1/29/2017) I liked the story, though was frequently distracted by typos or confusing phrasing choices. A sixty-something woman in an unhappy marriage is suddenly widowed. She sets out to find answers to mysteries her uncommunicative husband left behind. 
Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman...I rate it 8/10 (finished 1/21/2017) I really enjoyed it, though I don't think it is mainstream, and finished the last two-thirds in one sitting. Young pastor and his wife, Claire (a doctoral candidate working on her dissertation on early Anglo-Saxon literature), move to a new town and church in Minnesota. Wife begins teaching at the local high school, engaging with difficult students when a troubled student commits a murder. In the aftermath old secrets, of the community and of Claire's past, come to light. 
The Violets of March: A Novel by Sarah Jio...I rate it 6/10 (finished 1/18/2017 It kept me reading, but it was much 'fluffier' than I usually read. A recently divorced woman escapes to visit her great aunt on a favorite childhood-summer island. While there she finds a diary from 1943 and begins reading. I didn't like that the author resorted to having present-day characters go by different names in the diary in order to keep the reader from guessing the end. There were a lot of characters, and many of those were too similarly named (Esther, Elliott, Emily, Evelyn, Evan)...and so many of them went by more than one name...confusing. Also there were so many coincidences...which I always find either lazy or unskilled. Aside from the writing, the formatting made it difficult at times to recognize the switch from present day to diary entry which made for some confusion and re-reading. 
Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler...I rate it 6/10 (finished 1/16/17) I enjoyed parts of it, but it kind of left me thinking that a good biography might have been more satisfying. 
The Other Wife by Kathleen Irene Paterka...I rate it 8/10 (finished 1/8/17) I wife wakes up to find that her husband of almost 40 years has died in his sleep. Then she finds that their finances are not what she had believed, and he had changed the beneficiary of his life insurance policy to a much younger woman he had married and had two small children with. Told from the perspective of both wives. 
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi...I rate it 9/10 (finished 1/7/17) Afghan sisters, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, have little hope and no freedom. They rely on an ancient custom where one daughter can dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age, attending school and chaperoning her sisters. The story is woven between the sisters' lives and that of their great-great grandmother whose extraordinary life was told to the sisters by their aunt, to entertain and give them hope. 
Diaries and Journals 1836: Narcissa Whitman unable to rate (finished 1/5/2017) There is no way to rate someone's letters and journal entries. The title is...what a misprint? Diaries and journals are the same thing, no? And the book had as many letters as journal entries. It was interesting reading about her mode of travel through places I have also traveled through. 
Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker...I rate it 7/10 (finished 1/3/2017) Civil War ended cotton shipments to the north, so the mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts suffered lost jobs and lost fortunes. Then A. S. Mercer shows up to recruit women to follow him to Seattle, where men outnumber women ten to one. Interesting premise, but somehow the characters were rather two dimensional. 
Books read in 2016
City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan...I rate it 8.5/10 (finished 12/26/2016) Second book in a trilogy about an Irish business woman who, when her husband dies unexpectedly, escapes her grief by traveling to New York City and throws herself into work and community building. Really very good. I haven't been making much time to read lately, but this evening I picked it up with about half still to be read, and read till I finished. Now I want to start on the third, which I know I have because I can see it in my Amazon used-book order history, I just can't imagine where I might have tucked it away. 
Hiding the Past: A Genealogical Crime Mystery by Nathan Dylan Goodwin...I rate it 7/10 (finished 12/12/16) When other genealogists have failed to uncover the family background of a man, he hires forensic genealogist Morton Ferrier to try again, pays him £50,000, and then abruptly commits suicide. Even so, Morton decides to stay on the case. Pretty good, but not sure I will try others in the series. 
Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman...I rate it 5/10 (finished 12/2/2016) Model citizen and husband is recognized on a cold crimes television show and turned in for a murder committed 15 years ago. Interesting premise, but wasn't crazy about the writing, though I have loved other work by this author. 
Go Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner...I rate it 8/10 (finished 11/11/2016) WWI era Iowa farm girl has ambitions to leave the farm. I may not have enjoyed it as much if I had read it at another time, but after the nastiness of the 2016 Elections, it was a very calm and relaxing read. 
Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris...I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 11/8/2016) I read it in pretty much two sittings. I got a little impatient when the main character/victim didn't seem very bright, but still it did keep me wanting to read. 
Written In My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabeldon...I rate it 6/10 (finished 11/2/2016) It was okay, but WAY too long. Wow she through in every character and story line that popped into her head. Took me forever. 
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson...I thought it was very funny and touching at the same time, but I didn't finish it. 
The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir by Bill Griffeth...I rate it 8/10 (finished 9/8/2016) Mr. Griffeth, co-anchor or CNBC's Closing Bell, has spent decades researching his genealogy and has written a previous book about his results. His cousin, also an avid genealogist, asked him to take a DNA test to dig even deeper into their family history. The results showed that they could not be related, and changed everything the author thought he knew about his family. 
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman...I rate it 6/10 (finished 9/5/2016) I found it very slow getting started, and was almost halfway through before I was really engaged with the characters. After 40 years of marriage, Britt-Marie's husband has a heart attack, and she can no longer deny that though he has been her whole world, she has not been his...so she leaves, finds a job, and takes on life in her 'non-judgmental' way. 
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware...I rate it 4/10 (finished 8/16/2016) This was hyped as a terrifying thriller. Pah! If this is one of the top ten mysteries, I fear for the genre. Hated...HATED...the whiny, and half-assed characters. There was no mystery about it...saw the 'climax' coming a mile away in a boring, boring book. 
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman...I rate it 9.5/10 (finished 8/3/2016) Curmudgeonly widower, Ove, just wants neighbors to follow the rules and leave him alone. Fortunately they keep intruding into his routines with perfectly imperfect timing, and end up expanding his views and experiences, and adding life to his life. 
He's Gone by Deb Caletti...unfinished...will not retry...boring, droning writing...unlikable characters. 
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah...I rate it 8.5/10 (finished 7/9/2016) WWII story of French Resistance. I thought it was really good. I almost gave it 9 of 10, but I'm a little confused by how the main character ended up in the US. 
The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson...unfinished, but I'll try again later...I've had a difficult time sticking with books this year, and I'm not sure why. I've loved previous books by this author, so I'm chalking my inability to concentrate on it to my frame of mind. I will come back to it another time. 
The Extra Large Medium by Helen Slavin...I rate it 8/10 (finished 6/12/2016) From the title and cover art, I was expecting fluff, but was pleasantly surprised. I had that rare day when I got to read all day, and loved spending it with this book. The events around the husband's character could have been tightened up a little, but it was an interesting twist. 
Tremarnock: A Cornish Village by Emma Burstall...I rate it 8/10 (finished 6/5/2016) Single mother raising physically challenged child by working two jobs in a small village with the help of friends and neighbors. It could have been a run-of-the-mill story, but the author added a couple of twists that made it pretty interesting. 
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore...I rate it 4/10 (finished 5/25/2016) Great topic. Terrible execution. Remarkable amount of research, but none of it was presented chronologically. Husband's dead...husband's not dead...husband's dead again. Son's sick, deranged, dead...same son is not only alive, but starting a new business. Did an editor think this was a workable read, or did the author blow off any constructive criticism? Could have been so much better. 
Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin...unrated as I could not finish. I tried. I really did. It could just be that the author and I are at different times of life, but I found her endeavors not to be of even the remotest interest to me. 
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson...I rate it 8/10 (finished 5/14/2016) I had a hard time setting aside time to spend with this. A young author's first and only book catapulted her to the stratosphere of the literary world. She moves to California and becomes a recluse. Decades later, swindled out of all of her money and on the verge of losing her home, she agrees to write a second book on the condition that she is given a large advance and a trustworthy assistant to help with administrative and domestic duties, and in caring for the author's eccentric nine-year-old son, Frank. This is told from the assistant's point of view. 
Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto...I rate it 2.5/10 (unfinished 4/20/2016) Read the first third, and then the last chapter, and called 'er done. Could read no more. Shallow characters, cheesy dialog, lots of flashbacks...pretty much everything I hate...major waste of time. I gave it 2 points for the cover (which I really like) and 1 point for the idea...but then I took half of that point away for ruining a good idea with lame devices. 
The Rebellion of Jane Clarke by Sally Gunning...I rate it 9/10 (finished 3/29/2016) Decided to finish up the trilogy. I didn't identify with the characters in this one as much as in The Widow's War, but I loved the presentation of the well-researched history. I kept putting the book down to Google Revolutionary War figures to read more about them. And it had a surprise twist that I did not see coming. 
The Widow's War by Sally Gunning...I rate it 10/10 (finished 03/21/16) Excellent. I read Bound by this author in 2011 and really enjoyed it. I didn't know then that it was the sequel to The Widow's War. In 1761 Cape Cod, a happily married wife loses her husband in a whale hunt. The inheritance laws drastically alter her life, and she struggles against the family members, laws, and community that steal the home, autonomy, and reputation that she enjoyed before her husband's death. 
The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock...I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 3/15/2016) This was a YA book, so a little out of my reading norm. The writing was very good, and the characters were engaging. The story followed teenagers in 1970's Alaska, many of them Native American. 
While You Were Mine by Ann Howard Creel...I rate it 6.5/10 (finished 03/09/2016) WWII New York nurse takes a roommate to help with expenses. The roommate, newly married to a soldier fighting in Europe, is pregnant. After giving birth, she becomes increasingly troubled, convinced that the lack of word from husband means that he has been killed in combat. She takes less and less interest in baby, becomes more and more distant, until one evening the nurse comes home from to work to find her packed and leaving...without the baby or a forwarding address. Nurse cares for baby, waiting for mother or father to appear at any time to reclaim her, and becoming more attached to her every day. 
My Secret Sister by Helen Edwards and Jenny Lee Smith...I rate it 8/10 (finished 03/06/2016) Memoir of two sisters, one given up for adoption and raised in a loving home; one kept by a narcissistic mother and suffered neglect, abuse, and a lifetime of lies. The second half of the book, after the sisters find each other, build a relationship, and begin a quest to find out all they can about their mother's past, was very satisfying. 
Sweet Salt Air: A Novel by Barbara Delinsky... I rate it 6/10 (finished 3/2/2016) Not my favorite of the author's. I just couldn't relate to the characters...too young, too fit, too whiny. A successful free-lance journalist and her best friend, a mega-blogger writing a cookbook while her super-successful surgeon husband is trying to hide his MS diagnosis. 
The Old Cape House by Barbara Eppich Struna...I rate it 6/10 (finished 2/24/2016) The title setting involves dual story lines. One about a modern-day family adjusting to a move to Cape Cod discovering long-buried secrets about their historic house, and the other about a young girl accused of murdering her newborn in 1715. It was okay, and kept me reading, but it had some rather schmaltzy, overly-saccharine family moments involving the modern-day story line. The burglary of their house read a bit like a scene from The Hardy Boys. The ending was rather rushed as well. 
It All Changed In An Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser...Impossible to rate by my system. It was a compilation of many, very concise submissions of six-word memoirs. A fun, quick read. Easy to pick up for a few minutes or read straight through. Definitely makes you think about what your own six-word memoir should be. 
Crow Hollow by Michael Wallace...I rate it 7/10 (finished 2/17/2016) It was pretty good, but more of a romance novel than I was expecting. A Puritan widow is abducted by Native Americans. She escapes/is rescued, but is forced to leave her young daughter behind. Desperate to find her daughter, the widow joins forces with an English spy. They seemed to be able to make incredibly quick travels given the limitations of the period (pre-Revolutionary). 
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman...I rate it 8/10 (finished 2/4/2016) Writing was good, plot was interesting, characters were likable, and cover was very good. The ending felt rushed. 
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennesy by Rachel Joyce...I rate it 9/10 (finished 1/24/2016) This is one of those books that I feel truly guilt about not rating a 10/10, because I did really love the the writing, the characters, everything. The only thing is that I don't think I will ever have the urge to re-read it, and that is the standard for my giving that last point. 
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson... I rate it 6/10 (finished 1/15/2016) Mixed feelings about this one. Beautiful prose, interesting concept, but a plot that stalled. I would have liked a little explanation as to whether the main character was the only person who got do-overs, or did she just become more conscious of them than the rest of us? The thought that we ALL have to do things over and over (and over and over) makes me tired to even contemplate. Though the descriptions of living through the Blitz brought it to life for me more than anything I've read before, so was worth the read if for that alone. 
Books read in 2015
An Untamed Land (Red River of the North #1) by Lauraine Snelling...I rate it 6/10 (finished 12/28/2015) First book in series free as Kindle ebook. Not a favorite genre, but a topic I enjoy. Easy reading and likable characters. The writing was better than I expected, and since my library has more of the series available to borrow as ebooks, I may well give more in the series a try. 
The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas...I rate it 6/10 (finished 12/25/2015) I've loved other books by the author, but this one fell a little short for me. It was okay, but seemed a little repetitive at times, and predictable. 
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson...I rate it 9/10 (finished 12/18/2015) I loved it! The author took an unimaginable amount of research into ship building, war strategy and politics and turned it into a great story that pulls you in. It could have been so dry, but it wasn't. Unlike many novels I've read lately, this I could barely put down. 
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton...I rate it 6/10 (finished 11/7/2015) This took me forever to get into. Teen sees her mother kill a stranger. Forty years later her mother is dying, and the daughter is trying to figure out the mystery before she dies. I figured it out about a third of the way in, but kept reading. It was okay, but not great. 
Death of a Liar by M. C. Beaton...I rate it 7/10 (finished 11/8/2015) Hamish MacBeth polices Scottish Highlands. Pleasant escapism with wit and humor. 
A Highland Christmas by M. C. Beaton...I rate it 7/10 (finished 11/5/2015) Hamish MacBeth polices Scottish Highlands. Pleasant escapism with wit and humor.
The Memory Thief by Emily Colin...I rate it 2/10 (finished 11/4/2015) It took me two tries to get through it. The first time I gave up about a quarter through; weeks later I picked it back up. The characters kept rushing headlong into bad decisions. They made it hard to like any of them. I think it could have done with some major editing. Parts seemed very repetitive. The metaphors were distracting with the unnecessary details they threw into the story; i.e., she wanted to make the phone call about as much as she wanted to step on the giant cockroaches in her first apartment back in NC. What?! The premise was interesting, but the execution was not satisfying at all. 
The Abductors by Stuart Cloete...I rate it 6/10 (finished 10/27/2015) Fighting white slavery in Victorian England. I read this decades ago, but couldn't remember much about it. After I saw it referenced somewhere recently, I thought I would look for it to read again. It seemed to be very well researched, but seemed to get bogged down in details and descriptiveness at times...caught myself skimming...but I did learn a lot about Victorian clothing, the early Salvation Army, and history. 
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier...I rate it 9/10 (finished 10/07/2015) Really wonderful. I do so love a book that teaches me something while entertaining me too. 
My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni...I rate it 7/10 (finished 10/04/2015) Decent mystery. Homicide detective haunted by the murder of her sister twenty years ago. Sure that the person convicted was framed, she continues to search for what really happened. 
Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall by Winston Graham...I rate it 8/10 (finished 09/30/2015) I enjoyed the PBS series, but there were parts of it that I felt were glossed over or that I hadn't paid close enough attention to, so I read the book which did help to fill in the blanks for me. I do think I will read the rest of the books in the series; whether before or after the series continues, I'm not sure yet. 
The Diary by Eileen Goudge...I rate it 5/10 (finished 09/24/2015) It was okay, not great. A novel based on the author's parents. 
The Year My Mother Came Back A Memoir by Alice Eve Cohen...I rate it 7/10 (finished 09/24/2015) A memoir about the year the author underwent treatment for breast cancer while her daughter was awaiting, then undergoing and recovering from, surgery for a birth defect. Having banished the memory of her deceased mother, the author found herself needing her during the harrowing year. Her mother then began dropping in and making peace. 
Auld Acquaintance by Ruth Hay...I rate it 4/10 (finished 09/20/2015) Meh. It was okay. Predictable. 
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo...I rate it 10/10 (finished 9/5/2015) I really enjoyed reading this book. The ideas it contained were very clear and thought provoking, and it was very well written. Not to say that I agreed with every single point, but in general, I think it will be a great help to me. I am giving a 10/10 score, because I think it is a book I will want to refer back to again and again. I am starting my tidy up today! 
The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley...I rate it 5/10 (finished 8/9/2015) What happens when your neighborhood, your city, your country, your world enters a pandemic panic? This book made me think we should all become preppers. I enjoyed the story, but I didn't really click with any of the characters. 
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr...I rate it 5/10 (finished 8/14/2015) I cannot remember feeling this conflicted about a book. The writing was beautiful. It had wonderful characters whom I cared about. Yet I had to force myself to finish it, with a mounting sense of dread. And I was not surprised. There was no happy ending. There was not even a very satisfactory ending. It was so dark, so glum. And, yes, I know that war is not a pleasant plot. This one is securely in the popular-books-that-people-all-loved-but-I-didn't pile. The chapters alternating characters' points of view didn't bother me too much in this one (though the trend is generally a pet peeve of mine), but alternating time sequence did bother me greatly. Really? Why? SO. OVER. THAT. DEVICE. 
A Test of Wills by Charles Todd...I rate it 4/10 (finished 8/2/2015) Police detective, Ian Rutledge, comes home from WWI suffering from shell shock. After treatment, he returns to Scotland Yard with a less than happy welcome from his superior. Rutledge suffers (and hides) his continuing audible hallucinations of a fellow soldier who went before the firing squad for cowardice. Interesting premise, but the writing dragged, and the huge cast of characters were hard to keep straight, and their presence felt forced and superfluous.
This is the first of the Ian Rutledge mystery series. I had purchased a later book, but then found this one at my library, so thought I should start at the series beginning. I guess I will read the other one I purchased at some point. I hope it is more captivating than this one was. 
The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman...I rate it 8/10 (finished 7/16/2015) West Virginia in the Great Depression...registered nurse cares for her former colleague, a surgeon suffering catatonia after a mental breakdown. 
A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd...I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 7/12/2015) A WWI nurse makes a promise to carry out a patient's last request and gets caught up in a mystery. I thought it was written well. This is the first in a series. I probably will read more in the series, or at least by the author. 
The Godforsaken Daughter by Christina McKenna...I rate it 7/10 (finished 6/30/2015) Pleasant Irish escapism. I've read another by this author. This one isn't a sequel, but one of the characters was revisited in this one, so it was kind of nice catching up with him. 
Falling From Horses by Molly Gloss...I rate it 10/10 (finished 06/23/2015) Just the kind of sequel I love. It revisited much-loved characters, and yet it could stand completely on its own. There are not many books that I read that I insist that my husband read as well. The Hearts of Horses by this author was one, and I think he will like this one even better. In the 1930s a young man, having grown up ranching and riding rodeo, goes to Hollywood to be a stunt rider in cowboy movies. The main character is gritty and and unflinching, but with a core of honor and beauty, and so is this book. 
The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes... I rate it 6/10 (finished 06/11/2015) Disappointing. The characters were likable, and the topic was interesting. I didn't enjoy the writing. I thought it was too halting, as if the author spoon fed the reader tiny bits at a time, much of it in flashbacks, so that they couldn't figure out what was happening until SHE was ready. That felt very stingy to me, and I didn't enjoy the pacing at all. 
Wild Life by Molly Gloss...I rate it 5/10 (finished 06/02/15) I enjoyed the characters and their story, but I didn't like the writing technique mimicking a journal with odd scraps, quotes, and bits stuck among the pages. Very hard to follow. If this had been my first book by this author I probably would not have ventured another, but I absolutely ADORE her other books. 
The Jump Off Creek by Molly Gloss...I rate it 10/10 (finished 05/27/2015) Absolutely love the writing...sparse yet lyrical. The characters are richly drawn, and I wanted to share more time with them. Pennsylvania widow sold all of her dead husband's belongings and moved to Oregon to homestead. Strong and independent, but able to forge friendships and community that help her succeed. 
Miramont's Ghost by Elizabeth Hall...I rate it 4/10 (finished 5/20/2015) It started out okay, but about a third of the way through I caught myself skimming out of boredom. Some people might like it, but it just wasn't for me. And the ending was a total downer. 
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins...I rate it 8/10 (finished 05/09/2015) I found it very entertaining and read the entire second half in one sitting. My only complaint is that I am becoming a bit bored with the current trend of alternating chapters being told from the point of view of different characters, and this one altered chronology as well. I find that especially difficult when I'm reading on my Kindle, as it's not easy to flip back and forth to remind myself of the salient facts. 
The Promise by Ann Weisgarber...I rate it 8/10 (finished 04/25/2015) Set in 1900 Galveston, Texas. A young Ohio woman, fleeing a scandal which isolates and impoverishes her, agrees to marry a former acquaintance who was recently widowed and left with a four-year-old son. She finds herself living on his dairy farm on Galveston Island right before the worst hurricane in Texas history strikes. Having been born on the Texas gulf coast and weathering several hurricanes there, I found the hurricane descriptions to be painfully realistic. I spent a melancholy day when I laid down the finished book. 
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley...I rate it 7 of 10 (finished 04/19/2015) Well researched. Well written. Likable characters. One main character was a computer programmer with Asperger's and a knack for solving puzzles. While she was unemployed, her cousin found her work solving a cipher and transcribing the 18th century journal in which it was used. The other main character was the author of the journal. Not the author's most compelling novel, but good. 
Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke...I rate it 6 of 10 (finished 03/30/2015) Light reading. When a business man is murdered in Victorian era San Francisco, an independent woman takes it upon herself to join his household as a servant in order to investigate the members of the household. 
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn...I rate it 5 of 10 (finished 03/24/2015) It was merely okay. Wow these characters were hard to like...which I think I also said about Gone Girl. The main character was somewhat redeeming herself toward the end. 
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North...I rate it 2 of 10 (finished 03/15/2015) This is the least enjoyable book I've read so far this year. I hope I can still say that at the end of the year, as I surely don't want to read any worse. It just droned on and on and on. It would have made a great short story. Too bad it wasn't. 
Seeing the Dead by Sheila Connolly... I rate it 4 of 10 (finished 02/20/2015) Series, but I came in on book two. I didn't think it was very well written. I didn't really care about the characters. The ending was so abrupt that I kept hitting the forward and backward keys on my Kindle to make sure I hadn't missed something. I don't mind a series book if it can stand on its own. This one? No. 
The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss...I rate it 10/10 (finished 02/14/2015) It might not be for everyone, but it was for me. Peaceful reading, but never boring. I couldn't put it down. It was innocent without being naive, sweet without being saccharine. The main character had dreams of living in the books she loved, and now so do I...at least this one. 
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas...I rate it 8/10 (finished 02/08/2015) A favorite author. Set during WWII, the story is about a Colorado farming community with a nearby Japanese internment camp. The time and location settings are like visiting old friends from one of my favorite movies. 
So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman...I rate it 6/10 (finished 2/1/2015) SPOILER ALERT: Small town young woman is kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Another girl from same town knows who perpetrated the crime and took revenge. Sounds like it would be action filled, but I found a lot of it boring. I haven't had much reading time, and I think this one would have been better read in larger doses than I had available. It seems lately that a lot of books are written with each chapter in the voice of a different character, and that is not my favorite device. I did not really identify with or like any of the characters much. 
The Faraday Girls by Monica McInerney...I rate it 6.5/10 (finished 1/11/2015) I was drawn in by the writing which was very good, and the likable characters. But it was a little too long. The last third of the book lost me as I grew bored with the characters...they were a little too witty, a little too...too. I finished it, but would rather have been moving on. 
Books read in 2014 (ones marked with a ** are from my goals list.)
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler...I rate it 7/10 (finished 12/20/2014) Reading Anne Tyler is like listening to Enya...a beautiful voice and melody, but I can't really tell one song/book from another. 
The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout...I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 12/9/2014) Loved the topic. Great characters. Well written. I would have liked to see a more hopeful ending. I saw the movie before reading the book. The movie stayed remarkably close to the book. 
New Mercies by Sandra Dallas...I rate it 7/10 (finished 11/29/2014) Colorado in the 1930s: divorcee inherits a ruined plantation from an aunt she never knew existed. Travelling to Mississippi to settle the estate, she finds herself in Southern society, and delving into family history to answer the questions surrounding her aunt's murder as well as the family secrets that surround the father who died when she was a small child. 
The Journey by John A. Heldt...I rate it 5/10 (finished 11/14/2014) It was okay. Time travel was kind of interesting, the rest...meh. I don't think I'll read any of the others in the series. 
Letters From Skye: A Novel by Jessica Brockmole...I rate it 6/10 (finished 10/31/2014) It was okay, but I got a little tired of the characters. Glad to get to the end. 
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh...I rate it 8/10 (finished 10/28/2014) When I started this one, I wasn't sure I could take another story of troubled teen in the foster care system. Oh am I glad I stuck it out. I wasn't far into it when I was hooked and read it through in a couple of marathon readings. I've read some reviews in which the reader found the main character too unlikable, and couldn't see why supporting characters were so attached to her. I found the main character believable. Flawed? Yes. She almost lost me a couple of times, but I found her detachment believable considering the background. I guess it's a matter of taste or maybe even mood. 
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin...I rate it 9/10 (finished 10/26/2014) I really, really enjoyed this one. It wasn't the most upbeat story line, but the writing was excellent, the characters likable, and I laughed out loud many times (oh the chapter of the author reading at the bookstore!) One review I read mentioned that it was similar to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society...I remember really liking that book as well, but I don't think they are at all similar. 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain...I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 10/23/2014) I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. In fact I enjoyed it all except for the parts that included Tom Sawyer...those parts were a little too much like a marathon reading of Amelia Bedelia stories for me. Jim and Huck were wonderful characters, and I loved their relationship that developed through the story. 
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica...I rate it 7/10 (finished 10/14/2014) It took awhile to get into it. I found the 'before' and 'after' and different character voice chapters a little hard to follow on Kindle. I like a hard copy to be able to flip through the pages to clarify things when the going gets confusing. I didn't find it entirely believable. I didn't love any of the characters. But I did get caught up in the story and enjoyed reading it. 
Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley...I rate it 6/10 (finished 10/10/2014) Not my favorite by this author, but it had its moments. I liked the characters, but the plot needed some work. Literary agent Lyn, whose newborn died five years past, is invited to famous author's home for Christmas, where neighbor Elen is convinced that Lyn has arrived to protect Elen's infant son from mythological dangers. 
Pope Joan: A Novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross...I rate it 8/10 (finished 9/27/2014) Historic novel. Dark ages. Intelligent girl child finds a way into school. When her brother and the rest of the community is killed in a raid by Vikings, she takes over his identity, joins a monastery, eventually ends up in Rome and becomes Pope. The main character was based on the true existence of a woman who ascended to the Papal office. Engaging story. Well researched and written. 
A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany by Sigrid MacRae...I rate it 7/10 (finished 9/11/2014) I received this book as a pre-release in exchange for a review. I found it challenging. The military history and politics was slow going for me, and I found myself skimming only to lose an important thread and have to go back and reread. Could it have been more gripping? Yes, but it is, after all, a memoir and not a novel. I did feel that it was written with impressive honesty and integrity. 
Just What I Always Wanted by Nancy Roman...I rate it 7/10 (finished 8/28/2014) I liked it more than I expected to. I thought it was really well written. The characters made stupid choices, but I still cared about them. Loved the extended family members. And I was on the right track for predicting the ending, but also totally surprised. 
Before I read the book, I read another review which mentioned the excessive language. At the time I thought, 'oh come on.' But you know, as the book went on the language got worse. It was grating. 
The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern...I rate it 6/10 (finished 8/23/2014) It was okay. I would have liked it better if it had had a realistic premise. The idea that her 'life' was a real person devoted to just tracking her life events...ludicrous. On the other hand, it was entertaining. 
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett...I rate it 10/10 (finished 08/11/2014) I just finished this book for the second time. The first time was probably three decades ago. I loved it then. I love it still. Drama. Suspense. Love...lost and found. So, SO well written. One of Follett's best. 
Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson...I rate it 9/10 (finished 08/02/2014) Really wonderful book. I expected the topic to be interesting. What I didn't expect was that the writing would be top notch. The author did such a wonderful job of not just describing her canine partner and the rest of her pack, but of transporting me into her home with them. Loved it! 
Knitting by Anne Bartlett...I rate it 6/10 (finished 07/29/2014) I picked this up from a Barnes & Noble discount table while out of town. I admit that I purchased it because I like the cover. I had expected a kind of saccharine predictability along the lines of Debbie Macomber, but it surprised me. It was about unexpected, and somewhat frustrating, friendships between different personalities, give and take, learning to speak up for yourself, and surviving. It wasn't perfect, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. 
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce...I rate it 8/10 (finished 07/27/2014) I really did enjoy this book. It's one of those times, though, when I wish I had had a hard copy rather than Kindle version. There were several points where I would have liked to flip back to read something again, and I just don't find that easy to do on my Kindle. The characters were so easy to care about and so worthy of the happy ending. 
Replay by Ken Grimwood...I rate it 8/10 (finished 07/24/2014) I really enjoyed this one. I thought it was very imaginative and well written. Middle-aged man goes in to the office in 1988, has massive heart attack, and dies. He wakes up in his college dorm room in 1963 and has to relive his life. He makes different life choices, marries a different wife, eats healthy and exercises, and even so, in his second go round at 1988 he has another massive heart attack and dies. Again he wakes up in 1963 and starts over. Part time travel. Part love story. I was a little disappointed with the ending only because it didn't leave a firm conclusion. 
One Lavender Ribbon by Heather Burch...I rate it 6/10 (finished 07/11/2014) It was okay. I liked the plot, but the execution was a little too much typical romance novel. A little to much sweet and not enough savory. 
The Platte River Waltz, Orphans in the Storm by Ken Consaul...I rate it 5/10 (finished 07/06/2014) It wasn't bad, except for the fact that it had no ending. I don't mind (too much) the trend of serializing characters and stories, but ONLY if each book can also be read and enjoyed as a stand alone. Investing the time to read over 300 pages only to have the satisfaction of an ending withheld is a complete ripoff in my opinion. Thanks for nothing. 
**A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute...I rate it 9/10 (finished 06/27/2014) Really enjoyed this one. The writing was wonderful, and the characters were so easy to care about. I remember seeing the movie ages ago and liking it a lot. I thought I might look for it again, but wanted to read the book first. I don't remember the movie following the book exactly, so I am eager to watch it soon. 
The Sky Buries All Sorrow by Roger DeBlanck ...I rate it 0/10 (finished 06/24/2014) Quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. It was advertised as a riveting family drama spanning WWII to 9/11. Riveting? No. The writing was very amateurish, the editing was sadly wanting. Too many details are thrown in that lead nowhere. Phrasing that is out of time context. Dialog that is racially insulting. And then the ending...ugh. Maybe I should have set it aside...but by the time I was halfway through, it got to be a joke. I can't tell you how many times I laughed out loud (not in a good way) at the ludicrous and often repetitive phrasing. The author's bio reads suspiciously like the grandson in the book. It seems like he wrote a family memoir...but a riveting novel it is not. 
Frog Music by Emma Donoghue...I rate it 7/10 (finished 06/20/2014) I liked, but didn't love, this book. I found it a little difficult to follow jumping back and forth, before, during, and after the event. I found it a little easier going when I could commit time to read straight through. Incredible research and imagination on the author's part, because I did find it believable. 
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart...I rate it 8/10 (finished 06/14/2014) This is a compilation of actual letters written by a Wyoming homesteader to her friend in Colorado. They cover years 1909 through 1913. The letters are incredibly detailed and describe the land, weather, neighbors, crops, and just daily life in general. It reads almost as a novel, as you become acquainted with the family and friends of the writer. 
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier...I rate it 8/10 (finished 06/11/2014) I loved this one. The fictionalized story of the painting of the same name by Johannes Vermeer. I loved being able to look up the paintings mentioned in the book...it was like being able to peek inside the characters' house. 
** Call of the Wild by Jack London...I rate it 8/10 (finished 06/07/2014) Enjoyed this more than I expected to. Klondike gold rush led to shortage of sled dogs. Pets were stolen and sold. This is the story of one, told from the viewpoint of the dog. Really good. 
Tamarack County by William Kent Krueger...I rate it 8/10 (finished 06/06/2014) Second book by this author that I've read. Very good writing. Likable characters. Kept me up till the wee hours to finish it. 
The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas...I rate it 7/10 (finsihed 05/26/2014) Love the author. Her characters and locations feel so honest, it's like I've known them my whole life. This one made me miss the days when I used to quilt with friends. 
** The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger...I rate it 8/10 (finished 05/22/2014) I really enjoyed this one. I wish I had been assigned it in school, simply to share discussion and hear others' ideas about it. 
Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas...I rate it 8/10 (finished 05/14/2014) Set during the American Civil War, a great deal of the plot involves quilting, which I really enjoyed. The story was told through letters...much like The Diary of Mattie Spencer by the same author, which was told through diary entries. 
True Sisters by Sandra Dallas...I rate it 7/10 (finished 05/13/2014) Story of emigrant Mormon pioneers walking across country to get to the Great Salt Lake. I thought it was interesting and seemed to be well researched. I got bogged down a bit by the abundance of characters to keep up with. Loved the epilogue that gave a hint at how life went on for the survivors. 
The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner...I rate it 8/10 (finished 05/11/2014) The investigation of a missing woman. Hard to put down. 
Ellie Pride by Annie Groves...I rate it 6/10 (finished 05/09/2014) Started really slow, but I stuck it out. It was okay, but completely predictable. Young love, trials, happy ending. 
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer...I rate it 4/10 (finished 05/02/2014) An interesting premise, but once into it, I didn't feel like it was done well. I found it hard to follow, hard to care about the characters, and hard to slog through all the pretty words that did nothing to move the story along. I finished it, but it wasn't satisfying. 
The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd...I rate it 5/10 (finished 04/18/14) It was okay...an easy distraction. Could have used better editing. 
** A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens...I rate it 8/10 (finished 04/10/14) Loved the characters, plot, and ending. I struggled with the writing style, but as a product of the times how can I pick on it. 
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline...I rate it 8/10 (finished 04/04/2014) I've read other books about the orphan trains, but this one was the best so far. I liked the relationship between the two main characters...one a 90 year old survivor of the orphan trains...the other a foster kid bounced from home to home. 
The Diary of Mattie Spencer by Sandra Dallas...I rate it 9/10 (finished 03/29/2014) I saw this recommended on Pinterest. Looked at it on Amazon...full price, but synopsis and reviews looked promising. Looked on library ebook website...didn't have it. Looked on library physical book website...they have it, but I'm still away from home and didn't want to wait. Back to Amazon. Paid full price. Read non-stop and loved it. Worth the full price. Will definitely look at other titles by this author at library when I get home. (Guess I should add that it is about newlywed homesteaders in Colorado Territory shortly after Civil War.) 
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff...I rate it 5/10 (finished 03/27/2014) YA fiction. Note to self: no more YA...please! The concept was interesting. Teen with eating disorder and troubled family life is sent to live with aunt and cousins in England. War breaks out. Aunt is important government official and gets called away leaving kids alone. Food shortages, looting, relocation, and fighting ensues. Could have been really good, but wasn't. 
The Walking People by Mary Beth Keane...I rate it 8/10 (finished 03/25/2014) Well written and believable. Three Irish teens emigrate to US in the '60s and build lives. Engaging characters. 
Breeding Ground by Sally Wright...I rate it 7/10 (finished 03/20/2014) It was fun to read this one about Kentucky horse people, because I am in Kentucky at the moment...and it was okay, but not great. I think it may have been a little over ambitious? It had a LOT of characters. 
The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman...I rate it 8/10 (finished 03/18/2014) It seems like I've read a lot of midwifery books in the past couple of years. This one was a good read. I liked the storytelling and the characters. 
Murder on the Mind by L. L. Bartlett... I rate it 7.5/10 (finished 03/15/2014) I enjoyed this one. I found the characters likable and the plot believable (except maybe for the late-night bakery visits). Will read more in this series. 
** Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury...I rate it 6.5/10 (finished 03/11/2014) I think I have learned something from my reading list this year...I don't much care for fantasy. I mean I always shied away from it, but I don't know that I ever would have said, 'I just don't like this genre.' But I will from now on. This book, of course, was well written, and I really wanted to finish it to see what happened, but I skimmed quite a bit. 
** To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee...I rate it 9/10 (finished 03/03/2014) Really enjoyed it. 
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen... I rate it 8/10 (finished 02/28/2014) Not what I expected. It was going along kind of wordy and (sorry) boring. The characters' family life was so upper-middle-class traditional that I figured it would be one long whining harangue, when I turned a page and actually suffered a gasping intake of breath. It was almost painful to read for awhile after that, but finished pretty strong. 
The Laird by Sandy Blair... I rate it 5/10 (finished 02/25/14) What can I say...sometimes a girl just wants to read a trashy time travel/historical romance. 
** Frankenstein by Mary Shelley...I rate it: 8/10 (finished 02/20/2014) I did not expect to like this as much as I did. 
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout...I rate it: 7/10 (finished 02/17/2014) Winner of the Pulitzer Prize...somebody PLEASE remind me not to read prize winners again. I am always disappointed and wonder, 'Who was on this judging committee?' This was pretty dark. A novel told in short stories. While I have really enjoyed this format before in other books, I was disappointed in this one. I'm glad I stuck it out, because I liked the second half much better than the first half. 
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion...I rate it: 10/10 (finished 02/13/2014) On a scale of one to ten, I could count on one hand (and maybe have one or two fingers left over) the books that I have considered a ten. I am a tough grader...it has to be a real standout for me. And most importantly in order to get a ten, it has to be a book that I would be happy to read over again.
I have just added one to my short list: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It is funny and intelligent and sweet (but not sickeningly so). The characters are very likable, and it was just delightful. 
**Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy...I rate it: 6.5/10 (finished 02/10/2014) Took me awhile to get into it. I can see why it is a classic, but I didn't love it. I was about halfway through before I really wanted to stick with it, and then I was disappointed with the ending. Pretty dark. 
Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Nothup...I rate it: 9/10 (finished 1/29/2014) This was really fantastic. Absolutely amazed me to read the first-hand narrative of a free black from New York tell of his kidnapping and selling into slavery in Louisiana in the 1840s. I hope that it is still in theaters, as I would love to see the movie now that I've read the book. 
The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell...I rate it: 6.5/10 (finished 1/25/2014) I liked it. But I was a little dissatisfied with the ending. Family relationships strained for decades were all of a sudden sweet and loving. It just didn't ring quite true to me. 
**Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Other Stories by Lewis Carroll...I rate it: 4/10 (finished 1/21/14) One of my goals for this year was to read 14 books that I've never gotten around to reading. This was the first. I skipped the 'Other Stories' as I could barely get through the poor girl's adventures in wonderland. Now I know why I've never read it...75 small-print pages of
Time Travel Adventures of the 1800 Club by Robert P. McAuley...I rate it: 4/10 (finished 1/22/14) Mediocre writing, and I hated the premise. 
Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth...I rate it: 8/10 (finished 01/03/2014) Second in trilogy. Very, very good. Characters are so well developed, the setting is so vivid. 
Books read in 2013 (ones marked with a ** are from my Challenge Selections):
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes (finished 12/28/13) Reminiscent of Sleeping With the Enemy. The anxiety disorders that the main character suffered with were uncomfortable to read at times, but that brought home how difficult her life was. Definitely a page turner.
Every Secret Thing by Susannah Kearsley (finished 12/24/2013) Very different from the other books that I have read by this author. No time travel, but the story did move back and forth from present day to WWII in a fairly seamless narrative. Well-developed and likable characters.
**Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy (finished 12/21/2013) I think I may have read this one before. The characters were very familiar. I enjoy the author's story telling, interweaving the stories of the village residents and visitors, but there were so many, that it got a little hard to keep track of them. Very relaxing escape reading.
The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom (finished 12/11/2013) I just finished this book. It's the first book by Mitch Albom I've read. It was okay, but I don't think it lives up to his reputation. I'll have to try one of his non-fiction books one of these days.
Ordinary Grace: A Novel by William Kent Krueger (finished 12/05/2013) I really enjoyed this. Great story and writing. The community of complex characters was so appealing and could easily fit in to any small hometown a reader may know. The father/minister never came across as preachy, and the way that he and his wife dealt with their fear and grief was very honest. Each of them could easily have taken the opposite reaction and still have been completely believable and honest.
A Place of Secrets: A Novel by Rachel Hore (finished 12/01/2013) An antique book historian goes to English estate to examine and value contents for auction. Sibling rivalry for hunky-but-sensitive neighbor adds romance.
**Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (finished 11/20/2013) I really enjoyed reading this one. The writing was superb. The subject matter reminded me of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, but I liked this one SO much more. It brought you into the lives of the characters who were foreign charity workers in an African country in political upheaval, but let you reach your own feelings about the place and time without being preachy.
Possession by A.S. Byatt (finished 11/13/2013) Awful. Just awful. I like to read challenging books, but I had to force myself to finish this one. After awhile I just started skipping all the poetry. If the author had put as much work into the characters as she did in the poetry, it probably would have suited me better.
The Medium by C.J. Archer (finished 10/31/2013) It was okay for what it was (a free Kindle download of YA romance fiction).
Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule (finished 10/29/2013) This was rather boring, and had some descriptive language that seemed very contrived. What follows is not a direct quote, but close enough...they grew apart, or perhaps they just saw their victim reflected in each other's eyes. Really? This one just wasn't up to the author's previous books.
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (finished 10/20/2013) Short stories, part Ray Bradbury, part Twilight Zone. Not bad.
The House Near the River by Barbara Bartholomew (finished 10/8/2013) Light reading, time-travel romance. Okay.
**Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (finished 10/06/13) Really enjoyed this story of Olympian Louis Zamperini, his survival as a POW, and his victory in overcoming the memory of the atrocities. I love how the author can take an epic amount of research and turn it into a gripping story.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (finished 09/27/2013) The beginning didn't grab me, but I'm glad I stuck with it, because boy did it get suspenseful. The end was very puzzling. It definitely pulls my thoughts back to it wondering what would become of the characters in the future.
Vienna Triangle by Brenda Webster (finished 09/18/2013) A novel about a graduate student researching the early days of psychoanalysis. Read it on my Kindle, and there are lots of editing errors, missing punctuation and such. My favorite, though, was when an elderly character was out of breath after arriving at the main character's walk-up apartment...then when he left he stepped into an elevator...needs some proofing for continuity. The ending was really rushed.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (finished 09/11/2013) Multiple generations of a dysfunctional Irish Catholic family gather at their beach house in Maine.
** Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (finished 09/04/2013) I'm really not a holy grail story kind of girl, so I really didn't care for the story itself, but I gave it three stars because the writing was very good.
O Pioneers by Willa Cather (finished 08/24/2013) I have been meaning to get around to reading Cather forever. Reading about early Nebraska farmers is like climbing my family tree.
The Time Between by Karen White (finished 08/21/2013) This was okay. Pretty predictable. And speaking metaphorically...the author did...a lot.
The Son by Philipp Meyer (finished 08/11/203) Being from the area of Texas in which much of the story was set, I found the historic aspects very interesting and finished its 560 pages in a weekend. However, I was left feeling very unsatisfied. I didn't find any of the characters very likable...but then why should I like them, they didn't even like each other.
**Time and Again by Jack Finney (finished 08/08/2013) take some of Einstein's String Theory, a little self-hypnosis, and lots and LOTS of historical details, and you pretty much have it. It took me a month to get through his one...partly because I was busy, but also it just wasn't all that compelling.
The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston (finished 07/17/2013) Two and a half stars. The writing was good, and the main character was likable for the most part (I liked her lives in flashback, but not in present). I just didn't care for Elizabeth's relationship/mentoring of the teenage Tegan. Philosophically, I don't believe you introduce a child to life-altering activities without consulting and having the parent's approval. The fact that Elizabeth took Tegan's word for her mother's lack of interest was idiotic.
The Birth House by Ami McKay (finished 07/09/2013) A seventeen-year-old girl apprentices to a midwife in a small Canadian community during World War I. I really enjoyed this one.
The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (finished 06/19/2013) Not my absolute favorite from Ms Kearsley, but it had characters from my favorite as well as from another of her books. It was a fun read to watch the characters move forward and come together unexpectedly. I love that it wasn't really a sequel, and didn't offer long, repetitious info to bring you up to speed on what happened in previous books. If you like Kearsley books, definitely read this one.
**A Map Of The World by Jane Hamilton (finished 06/14/2013) I finally finished it a few minutes ago. The story never grew on me. I never cared about any of the main characters.
I did, however, come across a paragraph on page 298 that I read and reread, and came back to and read again. It describes the main character's thoughts about her marriage, and it strikes me as extremely honest, accurate, and universal...
"...I thought to myself that my passion for Howard had soon been replaced by something that was stronger than respect, or habit, or maybe even need. It wasn't a simple connection like affinity, because there had been periods when I felt as if I was living with a stranger, that I didn't know or particularly like the man asleep beside me, the man who always got up so early. There were dozens of feelings that came to me in varying strengths as I lay still. I recalled my affection for Howard, my admiration, the attraction I felt to him, and the way he could take me by surprise and amuse me. Those feelings were on the side of what I called love. On the other side there was rage, irritation, disappointment, boredom. Somewhere in the middle was endurance, stolid and essential as air."
The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen (finished 05/31/2013) This was based on an actual person...a freed slave who spied for the Union during the American Civil War. Not a lot was documented about her or her activity, but the author did a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters and events.
The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (finished 05/23/2013) I don't know. It was okay, but the plot just seemed to be amateurish, and not in the least bit scary.
Mrs. Somebody Somebody by Tracy Winn (finished 05/15/2013) I loved these stories of small town Lowell, Masachusetts. They cover different decades. My favorite instance of interweaving was when a baby in the first story (a minor character mentioned only once when it was saved from drowning by a main character) showed up in a later story as an Army notification officer delivering news to a next-of-kin of their soldier's battle injury. I just thought it was very, very well crafted.
**The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (finished 05/11/2013) Not an easy read. The story is told from the writings of the two main characters: a one-hundred-year-old female resident of a closing mental asylum, and facility's psychiatrist trying to figure out what living arrangements to make for her. I found myself almost overcome with the descriptiveness of the writing...it is very beautiful, but very wordy. When I got to the halfway point, I found I couldn't put it down. And the ending was such a sweet, lovely surprise.
The Bloodletter's Daughter by Linda Lafferty (finished 05/03/2013) It was okay. The history was interesting, but somehow I just never grew to care about any of the characters. It felt very distant somehow. I was surprised to read the author's notes at the end explaining that the inspiration were real historical characters and events. Maybe if I had known that first, I would have found it more compelling.
That Summer in Cornwall by Ciji Ware (finished 04/18/2013) Why did I read this sequel to a book that I rated 'merely okay' just one short month ago? It's been a long month. I kind of forgot what I didn't like about the other one. It was already on my Kindle. I needed an easy read. However, I didn't like this one any better than the first. Note to self: no more books by this author.
**The Cross Gardener by Jason E. Wright (finished 04/06/2013)...I started this one this morning, and read straight through. I cried all along the way, but loved the story. It reminded me of The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino which I read for the first time decades ago and loved.
**The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James (finished 04/05/2013)...Really very good ghost story. Nearly jumped out of my skin when my husband walked into the room unexpectedly during one of the creepy parts. Likeable characters. I guess the only complaint is that though it was set in the English countryside, it didn't come across as very English somehow, but very enjoyable just the same.
Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman (finished 03/30/2013)...Picked this one up at the library to read while the girls were making their selections. Decided to check it out for some easy escapism. I was easily a hundred pages into it before it revealed itself as Christian Fiction. I am a Christian, but I do not enjoy this reading genre. And it comes across as sneaky to me when nowhere in the synopsis, nor on the cover does it even hint at its true message...a message I agree with, but I don't think that people should be tricked into reading. It's as if they want to attract non-believers and get them interested in the story line before proclaiming the genre, because if they did it on the first page it would be set aside, but after a hundred pages readers may be enough into the story to want to finish. It just doesn't seem truthful to me, and in my opinion, we should NEVER use deceit to teach about Him who said, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life." ...ps: I did finish it, and it was merely okay.
**Moo by Jane Smiley (finished 03/29/2013)...HUGE cast of characters made this one challenging. Short chapters made it easy to read in small bites. I kept waiting for the stories to kind of come together, but it didn't really happen satisfactorily. Caught myself skimming a lot, but then I'd miss too much and would have to go back. I did like the part where the smart secretary led to the downfall of the mega-millionaire and his plans to destroy the rain forest.
**Half Empty by David Rakoff (finished 03/16/2013)...This was challenging. I started it at the end of January, and just finished it today. Since it is a book of essays, it is easy to put down and pick back up. I enjoyed the author's humor, vocabulary, and craft. But I have to confess that some of the descriptive banter ran a little too rampant for me...more pith and less peel, please. But it was like mining for gold, and I marked some sentences that were just too perfectly rendered not to go back and enjoy again.
A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware (finished 03/13/2013)...It was merely okay. I really hated the colloquialisms the author kept throwing in. The main character was from Wyoming, and she kept calling a child 'Buckaroo' and saying things like, 'My grandma always said you can dry your socks in the oven, but that doesn't make 'em biscuits,' and 'Cowboy up.' Ugh.
**March by Geraldine Brooks (finished 03/07/2013)...Didn't really care for this one. Based on the March family from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, this told the father's side of the story while he was away in the American Civil War. I didn't find any of the characters very likable.
Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth (finished 02/24/2013)...I really enjoyed reading this. I've loved watching the television series as well, and was pleased while reading to see just how closely the series has followed the book. Completely interesting to read of London post WWII where nursing service was home based in the poorest of neighborhoods.
The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston (finished 02/16/2013)...It was okay. A girl who is 'different' is married off to a farmer from a neighboring town. Learns to love her husband, and learns to harness her powers, and hone her skills.
No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay (finished 02/09/2013)...This author came highly recommended, and I wasn't disappointed. I've been having a bit of a dry spell, reading-wise, so it was so pleasurable to settle in with a book that I wanted to read straight through. A fourteen-year-old girl stays out past curfew drinking...has fight with her parents...and wakes up in the morning to an empty house and missing family. Twenty years later she is still haunted by the events and questions surrounding it.
** Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Behrendt (finished 01/26/2013)...Well written and engaging. Enjoyed it. I did find myself skimming a little now and then. Story of a well-connected antiques dealer who killed an employee, and of his four subsequent murder trials...two convictions overturned on appeal and retried, one hung jury, and finally an acquittal. Now I want to see the 1997 movie of the same name.
2012 books read:
(challenge selections will be indicated as "**")
**An Echo In The Bone - by Diana Gabladon...(finished January of 2013) Though I finished this after the end of the year, I'm tacking it on to the tail end of 2012 since it was one of the challenge alternates. (I feel its 800+ pages more than made up for the two selections I gave up on.) I pretty much hated this book, and do not plan to read any other books by this author. Though I thought her first books were quite good, the writing has just gone too far down hill for me.
**The One Year Bible...(finished 12/31/2012) Very proud of myself for reading this through again. Having the entire Bible broken into daily readings makes it manageable for me. This time through, I read it on my Kindle, and I missed being able to underline and scribble in the margins and be able to thumb back over easily to find something. On the other hand, having it on my Kindle made it more portable, as I usually have my Kindle in my purse with me.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey...(finished 12/09/2012) An update of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, moving it into the mid-20th century. It was pretty good. Not as good as the original, but an interesting concept. The catalyst that led to the heroine leaving the hero, seemed very lame in comparison to the original, but I enjoyed the time she spent away and the people she met and befriended. The ending seemed rushed and anticlimactic. I'd hate to see a lot of these blatant makeovers, but I'm glad I gave this one a read.
Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley...(finished 11/24/2012) This isn't my favorite by this author. I really liked the setting, and the descriptions thereof. And I can't say why I didn't enjoy it as much as her others. Maybe because it was a departure from her formula.
A Leap of Faith by Irina Shapiro...(finished 11/11/2012) Another time-travel romance which was the sequel to one I read this past summer. It was okay, as escapism goes, but I doubt I will read the next installment.
So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore...(finished 11/10/2012) Kind of an odd book about a lonely woman who becomes involved in the life of a lonely child who is the victim of cyber bullying. It wasn't very well written, and it bounced around so much as to make me feel vaguely off balance. I hated the way the author presented the adult main character as much too aged for her stated years. The author must be very young, very shallow, or very immature.
Nothing But Time by Angeline Fortin...(finished 11/08/2012) Time-travel romance time waster. Note to self: skip this author in future...or past or present, for that matter.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker...(finished 11/03/2012) I heard the author interviewed on NPR several months ago, and have wanted to read the book ever since. It is beautifully written. A story about the world suffering an inexplicable slow down, and the effects on the physical world and psyche. It is told from the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old girl, which I thought was really interestingly done. It is definitely not a light (if you've read it, please pardon the pun) read. When I finished, I found myself wanting to call a friend just to talk...after running through my mental list of friends, I realized the one I wanted to talk to is one who died over a decade ago...I cried for the missing of her all over again.
When It Happens To You by Molly Ringwald...(finished 10/26/2012) I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book of short stories. Each separate, but connected somehow to the others. It is an interesting idea. It has current as well as timeless subjects. And it is beautifully written.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan...(finished 09/10/2012) I checked this ebook out from my library...love that we can do that now. It was quite good. Futuristic take on The Scarlet Letter. What happens when we run out of room in our prisons? Perhaps we will keep only the most violent locked up...everybody else gets a treatment so that their skin is now a color (temporarily to last the length of sentence) to describe their crime to the public at large, and then turn them loose to cope with suspicion, prejudice, vigilante groups, etc. The main character is 'a red' convicted of murder, because she had an abortion...with extra time added to her sentence for not naming her abortionist or the father of the baby.
Gertruda's Oath by Ram Oren...(finished 09/01/2012) I could not put this one down. I read till 5:00am one morning...of course, I don't think I went to bed till 2:00am, but still. :) True story of a Catholic nanny devoted to the Jewish family she worked for in Poland as Hitler came to power. When the father goes on a business trip and is barred from reentering the country, his wife, child and nanny must evacuate on their own. I loved the photos of the actual subjects which the author included.
**Ladies With Options by Cynthia Hartwick... (finished 08/25/2012) Light entertainment. Sometimes the humor seemed to be a little heavy handed, but it was still a fun read.
Precious Bones by Irina Shapiro...(finished 08/19/2012) This one was somewhat better than the other one I read by this author. Not great, but better. Sixteenth century skeletal remains are found inside the walls of an old house. When the story hits the news, a viewer is overcome with the sense that she knows whose they were and how they got there.
All My Love, Samples Later by Craig Vetter...(finished 08/18/2012) This was an amazing book, based on the WWII letters of the author's parents. Right from the beginning, the reader knows that the author's father never made it home...that he is sharing the journey of acquainting himself with the father he never knew. Another reminder of the importance of the handwritten letter...an art form that we are rapidly turning our back on.
Before the Poison by Peter Robinson...(finished 08/16/2012) It was okay...not what I expected...but okay. Widower returns to England. His success as a composer allows him to purchase a large, old estate. After moving in, the new owner finds out that a previous owner was hanged for poisoning her husband, and he becomes somewhat obsessed with finding out the details of the incident and about the people involved.
Through the Door (The Thin Veil) by Jodi McIsaac...(finished 08/10/2012) I'm not into the mythological fantasy genre, so I didn't love it. But it was well written and interesting. A single mother's child begins exhibiting supernatural talents. Mother tracks down family of the child's father hoping to figure out what might be going on. Then child disappears. Father, who never knew of the child's existense, re-enters the picture to help rescue child.
**An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor...(finished 07/28/2012) I really liked this one. Reminds me a lot of James Herriot's work. Very relaxing escapism. Likable characters. Will definitely read more of his work.
The Hands of Time by Irina Shapiro...(finished 07/25/2012) The author chose to take some artistic license with dates and facts, which I guess is a little picky to complain about when you're reading something like time travel. But still, it's easier to get into the fantasy of possibility when there are no glaring discrepancies. It was also a little implicit on...ahem...certain acts, and too lite on character development for my liking. But its premise of accidentally travelling back in time, and finding a way to get a clue to a loved one in present day was interesting, and I'm looking forward to the yet-to-be-published sequel to see what action the present-day loved one takes.
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale...(finished 07/21/2012) Interesting, but very dry. At times it seemed to be a recounting of facts. It did give a pretty clear picture of Victorian England...from the new 'science' of criminal detection, to the new art of the mystery novel, the annual salaries of the middle class, and the household process of sending the laundry out.
Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith...(finished 07/13/2012) Bought this one purely because I liked the cover art and the idea that a cute little terrier was a main character. It was the light entertainment I was looking for...not great, but I enjoyed it. An easy read...I didn't have to invest too much thought or emotion.
War Brides by Helen Bryan...(finished 06/26/2012) I opted for an early Kindle version that turned out to have a lot of editing errors. But the story was quite good, and I was able to glance over the errors. Some of the coincidences were a bit harder to overlook. But the descriptions of digging victims out of bombed buildings, sharing rationing coupons, mending and revamping clothing, the difficulties of billeting with incompatible housemates, and other details of the hardships rang so true. Really interesting look into WWII England. Wow. I've grown a little tired of the fad version of the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' posters that are everywhere, but I think I may never look at them the same way again.
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland...(finished 06/15/2012) The story is about the women who worked for the Tiffany Studio making stained glass panels, windows, and lamps. Based on the actual letters of Clara Driscoll who was the head of the department. Well written and researched. Great feel for the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the twentieth century in New York City.
The Good Sisters by Joyce Maynard...(finished 05/13/2012) I really liked this one. The story is told...from the viewpoints of two girls who were switched-at-birth...in alternating chapters. Yes, it is a little far fetched, and yes there are a lot of coincidences, but it was well written, and just a good read.
The Postmistress by Sara Blake...(finished 5/8/2012) I liked this story and the writing. The description of life during the London Blitz and of the journalist's interaction with Jewish refugees were gripping. But after I finished the book, I found myself dissatisfied with how the ending just left the characters hanging. And I feel a little strung along, because in the beginning of the book the implication is that the postmistress didn't deliver a letter...but as best as I can make out, the only non-delivery of a letter was by the person making that implication.
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman...(finished 05/04/2012) This is really beautifully written. Set in 70 CE in Judaea...the Romans were attacking and destroying towns, sending those who survived searching for refuge. This is the story of the rebels and those who found their way to the Masada. The story is told in four parts...each in the voice of one of the Masada's dovekeepers. I do love a book that can teach me and entertain me at the same time.
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka...(finished 04/28/2012) I loved this book. It was very different in that it was all told in third person plural, which I thought was really well done. It begins when a group of 'picture brides' leave Japan to come to America to meet the husbands who sent for them. By telling it in the third person plural, it follows the entire group with an occasional individual quote set apart only in italics not quotations. Somehow it is very broad and yet very intimate at the same time. Now I want to read her first novel When the Emporer Was Divine.
Out of Time by Deborah Truscott...(finished 4/23/2012) While preparing to sell an inherited house, a woman has an unexpected visitor from the eighteenth century. Started out a little weak, but I was hooked into it very soon. It is a Kindle only book, and it had some pretty glaring editing errors, but they didn't distract from the story for me, and I thought the story was very good...a bit different from other time travel books I've read. The end seemed a little hurried, but okay. It made a VERY long car ride go by very quickly!
Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich...(finished 4/21/2012) Jewish midwife from sixteenth-century Venice ghetto delivers Christian baby of a countess miraculously saving baby and mother. Grateful count pays her enough to ransom her kidnapped and enslaved husband. This was another one that was just merely okay.
Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp...(finished 4/16/2012) I like good poetry, and I like good mysteries. Apparently I do not like them combined. I think the author is very talented, and yet I was somewhat bored by a cast of characters that could never just come out and say what they mean.
**The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver...(finished 4/11/2012) I found this one really difficult. Each chapter was told in the voice of one of the daughters, and occasionally by the mother. I can understand why the author chose to do that, but I didn't think she did it very well. It was really, REALLY wordy, and it took me a long time to be interested enough to want to know how things turned out for them. The author was somewhat preachy politically...I'm not saying she was wrong, I just didn't particularly like her methods. Basically, I didn't much care for the book.
**Firebird by Janice Graham...(finished 3/31/2012) Mixed feelings on this one. I read the majority of it in one day, so I can't say it wasn't interesting, but it was pretty far fetched. For over half of the book I figured it would take a miracle to redeem most of the characters, and I was right...though it wasn't very satisfying.
Poison by Sara Poole...(finished 3/27/2012) I hated this book. I didn't like any of the characters, and I thought the writing was poor. Set in the Renaissance in the Borgia household, it could have been very interesting...but it wasn't. I struggled through to the end, but I shouldn't have.
Runner by Thomas Perry...(finished 3/7/2012) I love the books in Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield series. Jane is a strong and intelligent Native American woman who helps people 'disappear.' This one was really interesting since there was a rather long break since the last book, and with the rapid progress that digital tracking the world has seen, Jane has had to adapt her methods. Makes me want to start at the beginning and read the whole series again!
**Almost There by Nuala O'Faolain...(finished 3/2/2012) The memoir of an Irish woman in her late 50s / early 60s. She reflects and examines her life thus far as a single, childless, writer. I found it painfully honest, and I couldn't decide if writing that honestly for publication proved that she was exceptionally brave or foolish. The open ending seemed filled with possibilities for old and new bonds and healing. Then I Googled her and found that she died just five years after this book was published. I hope they were happy years.
**Mariana by Susanna Kearsley...(finished 2/23/2012) Illustrator comes into an inheritance and spends it on a house that she feels an attraction to. Fun read, but not as good as Kearsley's The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden.
**Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo...(finished 2/18/2012) Road trip turns spiritual journey. I loved this one. It took me awhile to get into it, but I think that was because I had a lot of other things on my plate and not much time to read. Once I had a quiet afternoon, I couldn't put it down, and finished it all in one sitting.
Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon...(finished 2/7/2012) Light romance. Forty-year-old single woman leaves old life behind in the city and starts over in a small town dog shelter left to her by an aunt. Kind of formulaic, but I needed an easy read, and I enjoyed it.
**Snow Mountain Passage by James D. Houston...(finished 1/31/2012) Interesting history of early California and the overland movement of settlers to the western United States. Rather dry.
Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan...(finished 1/18/2012) First book in a trilogy about childhood sweethearts in early 20th century rural Ireland. They eventually marry, and immediately have to deal with family conflict, political conflict, serious injury, and poverty. Ellie immigrates to the US to earn money to send home and grows to love the modernity and opportunities. The themes of obligation, temptation, and ambition were very well presented. Looking forward to the second book in the trilogy City of Hope.
**Sarah by Marek Halter...(finished 1/12/2012) Novel based on biblical Abraham and Sarah. Interesting read. Very imaginative fleshing out of the limited information in Scripture.
The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna...(finished 1/8/2012) I was expecting a story of two people who met through a Lonely Hearts newspaper ad, but it was much more. There were flashbacks on severe abuse in an orphanage, but there were also parts that brought uncontainable laughs. And though the ending isn't what I expected either, it was absolutely right for the characters.
The Rose Garden by Susannah Kearsley... (finished 12/31/2011) Started rather slow, but before long I was really enjoying this one. The time travel aspects were my favorite. And the end had a surprising twist that left me feeling very happy and satisfied.
Seeing Things by Patti Hill... (finished 12/20/2011) Avid hiker and dancer, suffering from macular degeneration, begins seeing things which leads to her suffering a fall and broken ankle. Her upwardly mobile and extremely busy family thinks that recuperation at their house is a necessity. Getting reacquainted with them and their lifestyle has its ups and downs, and she struggles to meet each stumbling block with prayer and humor...and pie.
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks... (finished 12/11/2011) Loosely based on an actual village in England during the black plague. I've read mixed reviews on this. I understand what people didn't like about it, but I thought it was very readable, and I enjoyed it.
The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield... (finished 11/27/2011 This had some disturbing subject matter (incest and self injury) early on, and I spent a lot of time wishing that the main character would get some therapy, but it was really entertaining. And even better, it had a surprise at the end that I didn't even have an inkling of expectation about. I love that in a book.
My Heart Remembers by Kim Vogel Sawyer... (finished 11/10/2011) Three Irish immigrant children are orphaned and sent to Missouri on an orphan train and separated. After years of searching for her younger siblings, events bring them all together in the same town. This was a little too sacharine to suit me.
Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny... (finished 11/05/2011) An interesting mystery and likable characters. But this is one of those books that I think I would have enjoyed reading more if I had read a paper and ink copy instead of reading it on Kindle. It had a lot of characters, and quite a few of them had French names. As I was reading it in short sessions, I tended to lose track of who was who. If I could have flipped back through actual pages for reference, I think I would have enjoyed it more.
Abducted by T. R. Ragan... (finished 10/26/2011) Teenager is abducted by a serial killer and held for two months before escaping. Years later the killer still hasn't gotten over 'the one who got away,' and he comes after her again. It was pretty creepy and hard to put down. I liked it.
Dead and Berried by Karen MacInerney... (finished 10/23/2011) Easy escapism. Mystery about a woman who moves from Austin, Texas to Maine and opens a bed and breakfast. This was typical chic lit, and not even very good chic lit. I didn't like the characters or the unlikely scenarios.
The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch... (finished 10/15/2011) Really enjoyed this one. It's the story of a seventeenth-century executioner who is an intelligent and compassionate healer when he's not performing his day job meting out torture and death sentences. When children are murdered in the village, he searches for the real culprit before he is forced to execute a friend who is accused as a witch. The only thing that I found irritating was the repetitive use of a phrase during the chase scenes...someone was always running until he or she 'tasted metal in his mouth.' I just found it kind of odd. But this was translated from German, so maybe that was just a side effect of the translation.
The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott... (finished 09/30/2011) The writing was good, and the characters were well developed. What I didn't like about this book was the story. It began with a tragic event. Then, before you even get used to the pacing, it goes back in time by several years, and starts telling these people's stories. You get to caring about them. You grieve for them. You think they are going to carry on and be okay. And that's where the book ends...still several years before the real tragedy even occurs. Then I got to thinking about that tragedy...in essence what the future holds for these people you care about...and I had to go back and reread it. Because surely it must have been a bad dream or something. Surely that horrible thing couldn't have happened on top of everything else. Alas, it did happen. What. A. Downer.
Sophie and the Rising Sun: A Novel by Augusta Trobaugh... (finished 09/17/2011) Another story about Southern women. Set during WWII...when Pearl Harbor is bombed, good women strive to protect their friend, a Japanese gardener. A good read, but too similar to others read recently to really interest me. Luckily it was quite short and quick to get through.
An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance... (finished 09/16/2011) New York socialite in 1885 suffering from 'hysteria.' I really enjoyed this one. I felt so much empathy for the main character...a creative and talented woman who was forbidden anything that satisfied her creativity, and was instead demanded to only practice what was acceptable for her station and her gender. The medical practices were unbelievable, except that I know they were practiced at the time. It makes me wonder what people of the next century will shake their heads over that we accept as the norm today.
Lye in Wait by Cricket McRae... (finished 09/12/2011) Main character was a soap maker who shared a house with a massage therapist, with lots of accurate details about the process of those arts. The plot and characters were pretty run of the mill, but for some light escapism, it was enjoyable.
The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber... (finished 09/04/2011) This was really just merely okay. I should have been warned when a review said it was better than the DaVinci Code, since I didn't like that one either. I thought they were pretty comparable. In
The Book of Air and Shadows the main characters were all pretty unlikable...I did like a couple of the auxiliary current-day characters, and I liked the historical character whose recently-discovered ciphered letters were the basis of the mystery. I guess I stuck it out to see what they were able to discover about his ultimate fate.
Eyes at the Window by Evie Yoder Miller... (finished 08/14/2011) As the story begins, an infant is murdered in an Amish community in 1810. The wrong person is accused and, though not proven guilty, shunned. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different community member. The lifestyle of early America is presented so well...the cooking, the health crises, the movement west. I had a little trouble keeping up with the huge cast of characters, and the last couple of chapters I caught myself skimming a little, but it was worth the read.
Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley... (finished 08/03/2011) Started off with a really interesting premise...a little boy with the 'sight' sees the spirit of a Roman sentinel which brings an archaeologist and his crew hunting for proof of an early encampment. I thought that it didn't finish as strongly as it started...but it was still a fun read.
Bound: A Novel by Sally Gunning... (finished 07/30/2011) Really very good. The main character leaves London with her family bound for Boston, but the sea crossing brings terrible loss, and upon landing seven-year-old Alice is indentured by her father to pay the debt. Interesting topic, excellent research, skilled writing.
This Fine Life by Eva Marie Everson... (finished 07/23/2011) I can't believe I finished it. The writing wasn't the best. The story was too saccharine. But it was an easy read, which is probably why I stuck it out.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley... (finished 07/16/2011) Couldn't put this down. And if that doesn't recommend it highly enough, there was also uncontrollable crying...I'm not really a cryer, so to have a book touch me so puts it on a very short list.
Breath by Tim Winton... (finished 07/06/2011) This one was very interesting as well. I bought it for my husband, but picked it up to read myself before I turned it over to him. I think I wanted to see if I thought he would like it, and I think he will. At least the parts about weather and currents and reefs (all the things that effect the surf) and the parts about actually riding the waves. I was a little puzzled by the ending...found it a little anticlimactic...but it didn't spoil my feelings about the book. I actually find myself wishing the character well.
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson... (finished 06/29/2011) This was really interesting. Twenty years ago a woman has a terrible accident and is left with a rare form of amnesia. She can store short-term memories only until she falls asleep...then all is erased...so she wakes up each morning shocked to see a strange man in bed beside her and not even recognizing her own aging face in the mirror. I don't want to give anything away and spoil the read for anyone, so I will just say that it was good right up to the surprise ending. Very satisfying read.
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross... (finished 06/22/2011) The most feel-good entertainment in book form I've read in quite awhile. It is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny at times...maybe because I have hung around a lot of old Southern church-going ladies in my time, and I can just hear them speaking through this character's voice. It's the first in a series, (Many of the books I've read lately are one in a series. I think there are a lot more of them than there used to be...product-marketing trend no doubt.), but this is one series that I absolutely want to read more of. I will space them out in my reading itinerary...so I'll have something to look forward to when I fall into the literary doldrums. Highly recommend!
My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira... (finished 06/17/2011) I really enjoyed this book. It was very well written...a little understated at times, but so appropriate for the time setting. The main character is a talented midwife who wants to be a surgeon. After all doors are closed to her, she volunteers as a nurse for the Union Army in the American Civil War. I loved that the author did not espouse a political point of view, but let the deprivation and carnage of war speak for itself. And the conclusion had all the loose ends tied up nicely.
The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel...(finished 06/11/2011) This was a colossal waste of time. I loved the first two books of the series, The Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of Horses, but every book since then (this one is the sixth, and I've read them all) has been less inventive and more rehashing of old events. I understand catching readers up on previous storyline in case they've not read the other books in the series...but come ON! At one point I actually caught myself saying out loud, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." This one had the characters not just remembering the past, but making the same old mistakes with the same old self-recriminations. Oh, what are two hot cave people to do when everyone is either in awe of them or hates them because they are so talented, brilliant, and sexy? Seriously, Ms. Auel, it would have been so awesome if Ayla ran across someone in her travels who 'recognized' her...I mean every other cave person seems to be the spitting image of at least one of their parents...a long lost aunt or uncle living in another cave could have showed up at a Summer gathering. And you couldn't have had her cross paths with Durc? Ever heard of closure? This one was all research and no imagination, if you ask me.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald... (finished 06/09/2011) A favorite from childhood that was just as fun to read aloud to the grandkids as it was to read way back when.
The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens...(finished 05/29/2011) Finally! A book about the transformation of an overweight woman who is actually overweight. Every other time I've read one of these books about a nice but heavy wife who gets dumped by her louse of a husband, the woman is only marginally overweight, and I want to throw those books across the room from the insult. This character really did have weight issues. I did think that some of the described behaviors were bizarre, but I was rooting for her. Almost all of the characters in the book were likable (the husband)...or at least redeemable. I was disappointed that the end left us hanging, not knowing if she ever heard from her runaway husband, or if she was going to be able to stay in California, or, or, or... At the end of the book, there was no closure for her and, hence, no closure for the reader either. I enjoyed the trip, but would have liked to know the final destination.
Warped by Maurissa Guibord...(finished 05/22/2011) This book was on the 'New Fiction' shelf at the library, and I totally chose this book by its cover. Really nice cover art. Then when I read the jacket flaps my interest grew. In the vein of Harry Potter and Twilight, it is written for young people. Some of the storyline was a little immature. It has a very interesting premise, though, about lives and time and fates being woven (hence the name based on the foundation threads on a weaving loom), and has some exciting time travel aspects. I can see this being the beginning of a series. If there's a next one, I'll read it.
Lysbeth: A Tale of the Dutch by H. Rider Haggard...(finished 05/16/2011) I chose this as my first Kindle book (it was free). I knew next to nothing about the Spanish Inquisition, so the history really interested me. Great characters. I liked it a lot.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles...(finished 05/09/2011) I wasn't crazy about this one. I found myself skimming a lot. Too much detail of scenery and too little meaningful character interaction to suit me.
The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere... (finished 05/01/2011) Another mystery series. It was okay...an easy read for sure. The story was choppy; the chapters very short...some only a page and a half. The characters were interesting, so I'll probably try another in the series.
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear... (finished 04/30/2011) The first in a mystery series whose main character is a post WW I London female private detective. It's well written, and has good character development. It reminds me of Agatha Christie's work, but that may just be because of the time and setting. No, thinking about it more, it's also due to its innocent style of storytelling. I'll definitely be reading other books in the series.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck... (finished 04/12/2011) I love Steinbeck. I can't believe I've never read this before. I liked it a lot. There was a lot of dialog between the two main characters...I kept hearing it in my head as I was reading...and it was in Mel Blanc's voice. (I Googled it, and there were a lot of mid-century cartoons based on the book's characters...whew! I'm not losing my mind.)
For My Daughters by Barbara Delinsky... (finished 04/10/2011) On a quick run to the library on Friday, I picked this up, as I usually like Delinsky's books. About a page and a half into it I realized I had already read it. But it was at hand, so I read it again. Not my favorite of hers, but it was some pleasant escapism.
Gracelin O'Malley by Ann Moore... (finished 03/20/2011) This is one I've read and enjoyed before, and thought it would be a good re-read for St. Patrick's day. It really is very good. Such a vivid description of the potato famine and history that led to Ireland's mass exodus in the mid 19th century...which is approximately when my father's family would have been arriving in the US...inspires empathy and thankfulness for my Irish ancestors. It is a great story and well written, and is the first of a trilogy (followed by Leaving Ireland and 'Til Morning Light). I've read all three...you can't just read one...you become invested in the characters, and want things to turn out well for them...you just have to know what happens next.
Animal Farm by George Orwell... (finished 03/07/2011) Another one struck off my to-read list. I'm really not sure how I got through school without reading this, probably I wanted to read something different from everyone else. A mid-twentieth-century political fable, but the message endures.
Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky... (finished 02/27/2011) I don't think I've ever read a Barbara Delinsky book that I didn't like. This one wasn't one of my absolute favorites of hers, but it was a nice guilty pleasure...one of those I indulged myself with all day even though I have a million other things needing to be done.
Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue... (finished 02/26/2011) I really loved this. Thanks so much to Caroline for recommending it! It was a little difficult to get into the pace and structure at the beginning, as it is written in the voice of the five-year-old who has never been outside of Room or in the company of anyone other than Ma. Before long you get used to Jack's thought processes and language, and come to appreciate the mental and spiritual energy of Ma, and her efforts to educate and keep Jack healthy and safe in their situation. I also loved the characters that came in the second half of the book. Such an amazing and at the same time believable masterpiece of storytelling.
Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue... (finished 2/22/2011) A really good read. I had been recommended another book by the author (Room). That book was out of the library, but this one was available, so I got it while waiting on the hold list for the other one. Slammerkin reminded me a lot of Forever Amber. I really escaped into the sights, sounds, smells of the city and the time. I recommend it, and the other book by this author is half read and will show here soon.
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci...(finished 2/07/2011) Sappy.
I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flag...(finished 1/31/2011) I LOVE a book that makes me laugh out loud! I've read several of Fannie Flag's books, and every one of them makes me just feel good. After the last few books on my reading list, which seemed kind of like a chore to get through at times, I really needed a read that was pure pleasure. One of the things that made me laugh in this book was a joke told to one character by another: Why did the woman shoot her husband with a bow and arrow?...Because she didn't want to wake the children. I can't wait to tell that one at work tomorrow. :)
The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson...(finished 1/28/2011) It was...okay. Not particularly the cruel cat-and-mouse game as promised. The killer wasn't even introduced until the last couple of chapters. This book won Best Swedish Crime Novel in 2002...which makes me wonder just how bad the other Swedish crime novels were that year. Now for a bit of a personal rant, I think what irked me the most was that whoever wrote the synopsis for the front-inside cover had obviously not read the book. They referred to the female detective risking the life of her unborn child by investigating despite being on maternity leave. Hmmm...her baby was six months old, and was present often in the book; kind of hard to miss. I feel kind of angry at the synopsis writer for not being more conscientious about doing their job, but maybe they were so bored by the story that they couldn't finish it and just had to make something up. I feel kind of angry at the publisher for letting something like that slip by. None of that is the fault of the author, however if the book really engrossed me, I would probably have been able to overlook it. I think I'll pass on reading any of his other novels.
Emma by Jane Austen...(finished 1/25/2011) I undertook reading this since one of my goals for the year is to read classics and other books that 'should' be read. I've started and put down Jane Austen before...I much prefer not to be able to guess what the endings will be at the outset. This time I managed to stick with it, though it took considerable will power until I reached about the halfway point...by then I was invested in the characters. I'm happy to have it read, which is almost but not quite the same as I'm happy to have read it.
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett...(finished 1/2/2011) I am a big Ken Follett fan. He is the author of my favorite book ever (Pillars of the Earth). Fall of the Giants pulled me in from the start. I really liked the characters and their stories. Unfortunately their stories only seemed to take up about half of the thousand or so pages contained in the book. I got bogged down in the history, politics, geography and military strategy that fill the other half, but I did learn a lot. This is the first in a trilogy. I will read the second when it comes out, but I think I will either wait for the paperback or get it from the library.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer...A new look at WWII from the viewpoint of a young Hungarian Jew. This was a really beautiful story, and an interesting history lesson on the daily life of eastern Europeans just before and during WWII. Very rich story development, which takes you onto the streets of Paris, back stage of a theater, into architecture classes, and inside the enforced labor crews. I love an author who can teach me new things while I'm enjoying being engrossed in the plot!
The House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier...I read this for the first time decades ago and loved it. Sometimes when I reread a much loved book years later, I'm disappointed to find that my tastes have changed somewhat. This one though held up well. I really enjoyed it this time too.
Dissolution by CJ Sansom...I found this really hard to get into and hard to stick with. When I finished, I was glad I had read it, and I may try some of his others...but not right away.
The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel...I saw the television movie adaptation, and I absolutely love it. The book is very good also, but it is one of the few times I can say that I liked the movie more than the book.
The Music Room by William Fiennes...I took WAY too long to read this considering it's not that long, but I kept getting sidetracked with other things. But I did really enjoy it. His writing about his brother's epilepsy is so honest, and his writing about growing up in a castle made it not just a setting, but a major character.
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See...I really love the way Lisa See takes me with her into another culture. Shanghai Girls was shared so vividly...not always comfortably. I didn't identify with the characters of this book as much as I did in Snowflower and the Secret Fan, another book of Lisa See's that I read last year, but it was a wonderful read. The end seemed to be setting up a sequel, so ended a little abruptly and leaving questions.
A Widow for One Year by John Irving...Glory be! I finally finished!!! Good plot, but the author really likes to hear himself type, I'm thinking. I remember thinking the same thing when I read a previous book of his (The World According to Garp). I got a little bored with some of the supporting characters' quirks by the end.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger...Interesting, well written, great character development. I had a little trouble getting into it, but it finished well. Tears fell. It doesn't make my list of all-time favorites, but it was well worth the read.
The Master Butcher's Singing Club by Louise Erdrich...I really enjoyed reading this one. The author based the main characters on her family members...the cover art is a photo of her grandfather. It had rich character development, and I loved her phrasing...not the run-of-the-mill metaphors.
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt
The Hole We're In by Gabrielle Zevin
Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? by Padgett Powell