Monday, March 30, 2015

One of my favorite books I've read this year

A Small IndiscretionA Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.*

As of now, this is my favorite book of 2015. I couldn't put it down. The writing was beautiful, and I liked the back and forth narrative, between the past and the present. I figured out part of the ending, but not the entire story, and I was surprised! I won't reiterate the plot, as you can read about it yourself, above.

This is a novel about youth and exploration, and finding yourself, and about marriage and family and truth and trust. It was just so well-written and I was totally into the story. This author is wonderful and can't wait for more from her. I think this book will stay with me for awhile.Highly recommend!

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A wonderful woman's adventure story!

Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian TrailGrandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a good book! Emma Gatewood was quite a woman. She was the mother of 11 and a victim of horrible physical abuse by her husband, until she finally got the strength to leave him and her remaining children behind. When she decided to hike the trail, in 1955, she didn't tell anyone where she was going or for how long. Her family was used to her going for long walks and were not worried. She went with tennis shoes and a bag she made herself to carry her few items she carried. Unbelievable, after comparing with what hikers take today. Despite her age and bad feet and inappropriate footwear, she made the arduous trek from Georgia to Maine. When reporters discovered her and articles starting appearing nationally about her undertaking (the first woman to hike it the whole way through), is when her family found out where she was! At the end, I think she went through five pairs of shoes and met quite a few people (not other hikers) along the way. Grandma Gatewood ended up doing the entire trail a second time and then a third time, but in sections. Then she walked the Oregon Trail! It was nothing for her to walk 5-10 miles just to visit somene. She just loved to walk! She is truly an inspiration, not only for "senior citizens" but for everyone.

I read this book with the Women's Adventure Book Club on Facebook. I highly recommend this book!!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A good sequel, but a sad story

Learning to Love Myself (No Tears for my Father #2)Learning to Love Myself by Viga Boland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**I received this book for free from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.”

I did not read the first book in this memoir (although I have now just bought it for my e-reader because I HAVE to read it!). I could not put this book down. Viga’s story is very compelling and a testament to the human spirit. I cannot imagine how she kept what happened to her a secret until she was 65 years old! Her father was a piece of work and how she managed to maintain any semblance of a relationship with him is almost unbelievable, much less function in her life and marriage. I know it was for her mother’s sake alone, but still…… I wish she had told her mother when it was happening, as Viga was only a child, but I understand how the fear of her father was too great. And this happened so long ago, when things like this were not spoken about. If it happened today, I think/hope she would have spoken up at the beginning.

The writing of the story was seamless and flowed so well; I just wanted to read it straight through and almost did! At the end I even checked out many of the links, including to Victoria’s pages – very interesting.

I recommend this book, but I think it would be better to read No Tears for my Father first, in order to get the entire story (although Viga gives a quick summary of the first book at the beginning of this book).

A fun audio book

Beauty QueensBeauty Queens by Libba Bray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, what can I say? This wasn't a great book, but it certainly was one of the most fun audio books I've ever listened to. In fact, I don't recommend reading it because AUDIO is the ONLY way anyone should experience this book. It's funny and quite the parody on beauty queens, yet also makes a strong statement on how people are judged heavily on their appearance. I did enjoy the book and it was a nice break from what I usually read.

I give it 5 stars

Into the ForestInto the Forest by Jean Hegland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book in two sittings, and I couldn't put it down. First, I could relate to the homeschooling/ unschooling in the story, as my family homeschooled for 12 years. Everything the girls (mainly Nell) learned, she learned on her own, through her own interests, from books, from trial and error, from invention. I found it all fascinating and believable, and often enviable. It is the first fiction book I've read about unschooling and it delivered! Also, I felt that the way the world was crumbling could actually happen during our lifetime, as the signs of "Armageddon" are here today.

As to the characters, I liked Nell more than Eva, as I thought she was more I interesting and resourceful and nicer. I thought Eva was more selfish and self- centered and distant. But I did enjoy the whole ballet theme with Eva, as I have family members in ballet, as professional dancers. On the other hand, Nell was more needy. I admit that I did like her mother's pushing her to entertain herself, to pursue her own dreams, and to "be her own person," when she whined about Eva's desertion of her in pursuit of ballet.

At the end of the book Eva "stepped up" and took charge and I think the book ended in the best way it could. Her decision was the best course of action and well thought out. At the same time, it was a leap of faith and scary, to me, as I don't thnk I could live that way, forever. But, like Eva said, people lived like that for millenniums and the human race survived and thrived.

I wonder if a sequel will be written? I want to know how Burl was raised (clothes? diapers?), what happened to the boyfriend who hiked across the U.S. to Boston, what happened to the rest of the U.S. and all other countries and societies, whether the girls ever leave the forest again, etc. etc. I cannot figure out the symbolism with the bear dreams. What did they all mean? Hopefully our book club discussion of the book will be interesting, stimulating, and dynamic! By the way, I cried at the end as I was very moved.

A strange book......

Dept. of SpeculationDept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't know what the heck this book was about! The synopsis says it's letters by a wife to her husband, but it doesn't sound (I listened to the Audible version) like it to me! I got that it was about a marriage over the years, an affair, a child, etc. but that's about it. The writing was beautiful and I loved the author's narration, but I couldn't figure the story out. Good thing it's only 3 hours long, because I'll have to listen to it again before book club, lol. Some of the passages were profound, I thought, and wished I had the ebook so I could highlight them. I don't even know what genre to put this book in, besides fiction.

Update: I DID listen to it again, in one sitting, during a long car ride, and this time it was better. Also, after discussing it in book club, it became more clear. Still not a book I'd recommend, but I'm glad I read it.

A wonderful audio book!

The Boston GirlThe Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friend recommended this book to me. I have not read (yet) any of Anita Diamant’s other books, so this was my first one. I listened to it on Audible, narratated by the actor Linda Lavin. I loved the book and it reminded me a lot of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because of the time period it is set in, the city (New York), and the kind of life Addie lived. I like the author’s writing style and can’t wait to read The Red Tent by her and look forward to other books by her. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to discuss it with my friends who are also reading it.

One of my favorite movies - finally read the book!

Washington SquareWashington Square by Henry James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After learning that one of my favorite movies, "The Heiress" was based on this book by Henry James, I knew I had to read it someday. I ended up listening to it on Audible and loved it! I just love the formal language, the setting (time and place), and the story. I didn't like the characters, though, as they were either cruel, manipulative, annoying, or stupid. I don't understand why Catherine never married anyone else and why she couldn't see Morris for who he really was. And why did her father insist on being so cruel to his daughter and change his will, years after Morris left? In retrospect, the storyline was pretty well drawn out and kind of weird - dwelling on the Catherine/Morris ill-fated romance for over 20 years. But I still loved the book and the narration was spot on. Now I want to see the movie again, as well as a later version of the movie that I have not seen before.

No Tears For My FatherNo Tears For My Father by Viga Boland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read the sequel to this book before reading this one. I think I liked the sequel better. Viga's family life, her's father's abuse (mental, physical and sexual) was horrific and her mother's indifference to her daughter (trying to survive her own abuse) was heartbreaking and horrific. Every time I wondered why Viga didn't speak up, didn't move out, didn't stand up to her father, she explained it, as if she heard me asking the questions! I cannot judge her as she had to live her life as only she knew how. I know how paralyzing fear can make a person. I think/hope that in today's world, a victim would speak up sooner and confront her abuser. However, children, despite all, still want to love their parent(s) and don't want to make them disappear (jail), so maybe if it happened today Viga would not change anything; I don't know. Again, the writing was good and the memoir compelling; I could hardly put it down. I have never experienced abuse in my life or known anyone who has admitted that they have, so I don't know how I would have dealt with the same situation. This was Viga's story and her reality, and it's amazing how her life has turned out (good husband, loving daughters, good jobs). She is obviously very strong and resilient. Her father was obviously very sick and it's so sad he never was caught and forced to get help. I wanted to punch him and confront him myself while reading the book. I actually yelled at him out loud while reading! It's a very moving memoir of a survivor of a childhood NO child should ever have to experience.

A travel adventure book in the U.S.

A Journey With StrangersA Journey With Strangers by Mark Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I graduated college in 1974, the same year the author graduated high school. Those were the times when kids hit hiked across the U.S. or back packed through Europe. I never did either, but I enjoyed reading about Mark's journey. I think he was pretty immature at the time, but that's normal for a boy his age. As he wrote this book years later, I wonder how accurate his memories actually were about the people he met? Some of the incidents and people seemed a bit far-fetched. I'm glad nothing "bad" happened to him on his journey from any of his rides; he was lucky. Although he was aware of the dangers, and he tried to be selective in who he accepted rides from, I still was a bit scared for him.

I read the book in basically two sessions and was curious and interested to see what happened. The writing was okay and the story flowed nicely. However, the Kindle version had a number of glitches (not the author's fault, I don't think). There were horrible spacing errors, lines were out of order, and it was annoying. I hope Amazon fixes these!

Since I like travel adventure books, I thought this one was okay, but not great. I would like to know what the author did after this adventure, when he returned home, and in his future. He was a child of the times, and this book was a good reflection of the times.

My rating is actually 2 1/2'stars.

A so-so book

The SpeechwriterThe Speechwriter by Sid Crowe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this book for free from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.

As a former homeschooling parent, all the views on education expressed in this book are views that I also hold. I found this to be fascinating and well thought out. I also support the views on gun control expressed. But other things were so far fetched and not well- developed: for example, meeting the governor of your state in a restaurant (the main character is a waitress there) when you interrupt his conversation with his companion to rant about gun control to these two strangers, and then immediately get fired by your boss in public, and simultaneously hired by the governor to be his speechwriter! The sex scene towards the end was gratuitous and unnecessary because it just didn't fit with the book. Running for president as an unknown, inexperienced woman was pretty much unbelievable. Sometimes the conversation was very stilted and juvenile. Finally, the numerous editing, grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and spacing errors was almost more than I could take. But, overall, the story captured my attention and I read the book in one sitting. I don't know if this is a first book for the author or how old he is, but I hope he keeps writing and improving, and uses an editor next time!!

An excellent psychological thriller!

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So far, this is one of my favorite books of 2015. While being compared to Gone Girl, the only similarity that I can see is that both are psychological thrillers. I did not figure out the ending and I was surprised! I liked the way the book was written, from the points of view of the three main characters, Rachel, Megan and Anna. None of the characters in the book was particularly likeable, except maybe Rachel's roommate. As Rachel was an unreliable narrator (she had black outs and could not remember what she did or saw), I really had no idea which way the book was going to go; there were lots of twists and turns. The author, Paula Hawkins, is a wonderful writer and I thought the characters were all well written. Like Rachel, I too would be daydreaming and imagining lives about the people I would see if I were passing by on a commuter train, so I found this book very believable. bad things happened to her every time she drank. I would've thought she would try to curb it more, but she was pretty hopeless. I have one question that I must have missed in the reading - what happened to Megan's child that she lost years ago? How did she die - an illness, an accident, or what? Although the book was dark and somewhat depressing, it kept me enthralled until the end and I highly recommend it. I hope our book discussion next week is a good one!