Category Archives: books

What I’m Reading

Here is another update on my reading. I’m starting to chug through some books. Still behind on my goal for the year, but I’m trying!

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

This book is a murder mystery set in 1918 involving a trio of young people, each of whom has a problematic person in their lives murdered with a “you’re welcome” note involved. At first the police don’t suspect any foul play in the deaths as the notes were found later, so socialite Allene and her friends Jasper and BIrdie work to solve the murders. Several twists and turns and red herrings in this book. It was a very fast read and well researched for events going on at the time.

Quarantine by John Smolens

When I was in school, I took a microbiology class that got me hooked on all things related to bacteria and viruses, so this book was a no-brainer for me to read. It takes place in 1796 during the plague outbreak as it reaches Newburyport, Massachusetts. Giles, the town doctor, is trying to save people and prevent the spread by building a pest house and using medical practices of the time while the town begins to rise up in religious fervor.The story was extrapolated from real history and the author was very meticulous in describing how life was back then and how they dealt with outbreaks. There is also a subplot of a conspiracy, which results in an unexpected ending. At times it moved a little slow, particularly in the beginning, but it moved quickly from there. I ended up reading this on a flight from NY to Denver this summer.

Close To Shore by Michael Capuzzo

This is a nonfiction book that tells the story of the Great White shark attacks on the Jersey Shore in 1919. The author creates a narrative based on newspaper accounts, as well as personal diaries and journals. He also does a good job of setting the tone of what life was like in 1916, although sometimes I found the details of that took away from the actual telling of the shark part. These were the first reported shark attacks in the upper East Coast and people could not seem to grasp that it was a shark that did this. At the time, people thought sharks didn’t attack people because their jaws weren’t strong enough. Really an interesting book and I have to say that it doesn’t make me want to swim in the ocean LOL!

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

This book is two stories woven together by two different real life disasters in New York – the Triangle Shirtwaist fire (1911) and current 9/11/2001. The parallels between these two events are actually striking, I have to say. Most of the book follows a nurse named Clara as she tries to deal with losing someone in the Shirtwaist factory fire and her inability to move on.  She takes a job on Ellis Island to create a safe haven for herself until she is forced to go back to the mainland. The part of the book in the current time follows Taryn, a widow who lost her husband in 9/11. She also has not learned to truly move on. Both stories are connected by a beautiful scarf that passes through various hands. I found Taryn’s story to be not as well developed, so I wasn’t much emotionally invested in her story. Clara I wanted to grab her and shake her many times LOL! But I was rooting for her. Again, another story well researched for the settings. Also a quick read.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Of course, I got this book because it was about a gardener, but it’s not a good gardener! This is the story of two Irish teenagers who arrive in America after being separated from their parents on the sea voyage in the late 1800s (from the famine). They find work in a household that is shunned by the town. The family seems to be slowly changing and at night a strange figure watches over everyone sleeping. Everything with the house seems to be tied up in the large tree that grows very close to the house. It’s up to Molly and her brother to figure out what is happening and how to save the family and themselves. This book is actually supposed to be for younger readers, but it’s really scary at times. The author is really great at creating a mood – and the mood is creepy!  I think it would give a 10-year-old nightmares. The writing is quite good and I want to explore other books by this author.


I’m really stuck in a time period, aren’t I? Even the nonfiction one is around the same time!

What I’m Reading

I haven’t updated my books in a while. It’s been a little slow on the reading front. My goal was to read 25 books this year and I have to catch up, although with some travel coming up I will have plane time.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Considered one of the first feminist books in literature. It was written in 1899 and is told from the point of view of Edna, a Victorian woman who becomes disillusioned with the life that a married Victorian woman is supposed to have. This book was pretty shocking for 1899 since it includes infidelity and the questioning of a woman’s place in the world. Sometimes Edna comes across as being very callous, which I think is almost an effort to show feminism in a bad light. A very interesting read and you really wouldn’t think it was written so long ago.

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

This book has an underlying premise that the underground railroad was an actual train that ran underground to safe houses. I wish that aspect had been explored a little more as a metaphor because it was a unique viewpoint. The book follows Cora, a plantation slave who escapes through the railroad across the US on the run from a bounty hunter. This book is a grim story about slavery and the lengths that were taken to suppress sympathizers and crush the railroad. It’s an uncomfortable read at times, but worth it.


In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

This is a good summertime WWII mystery read. Set in England, the story is about Ben and Pamela trying to solve the mystery of a downed anonymous pilot on the grounds of Farleigh Place (Pamela’s home). The two also work secretly under cover for the government – each not knowing that the other does. It’s a fairly fast paced mystery with a nice twist at the end.

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

This book is really nonfiction. Or it’s one of those books that takes historical letters, notes and news and creates a narrative from it. It covers the time that William Dodd was the US ambassador to Germany as Hitler rose to power. It takes you through all the steps that happened to set the wheels in motion and how the rest of the world would dismiss it until it was too late. The book is a little scary because everything in it is true and happened.


The Coffee Trader by David Liss

Ha ha – you knew I picked this because of the title, didn’t you! It’s true. Set in Amsterdam in 1659, it follows Miguel as he partners with a Dutch woman to try introduce coffee to the trade industry in Amsterdam, which would make them both rich. It became a little tedious with the inner workings of the trade industry, so it was a bit dry at times and I found myself wanting the story to move faster. Of course in the trade world there is illegal activity, spies and sabotage, so you are waiting to see if Miguel succeeds or not.

The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson

Yes, another book by Erik Larson. This is truly a fascinating story of how the World’s Fair came to Chicago in 1893 and the monumental task of building the complex for the fair, which became nicknamed the White City. Daniel Burnham is the architect behind the project and it is amazing to me the herculean effort that took place to get everything up and running on time.  A parallel story line follows H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who preyed on young women in Chicago during that time.  He built the World’s Fair hotel, which housed a gruesome holding place for his victims. All true, again told in a narrative format.  Very well done narrative.

Euphoria by Lily King

This story  is based loosely on the Leakeys and takes place in New Guinea. There are 3 main characters: Nell Stone, famous for her controversial work studying South Pacific tribes, her  husband Fen, and Andrew Bankson, another anthropologist who is a friend of Fen. The book basically is a love triangle, surprise, surprise… but a quick read. Fen has trouble accepting Nell’s fame and hatches a plan to go for a big discovery with disastrous results. There is a lot of discussion of how anthropology theories are formed, which is quite interesting. Plus what the realities of life were for Western people living with indigenous tribes. If you liked Water for Elephants, you will probably like this book.

An interesting array of books there. I’m still in the historical fiction mode, if you can’t tell, but also stories based on real life people and events.

What I’m Reading!

It’s been a while since I updated this.  Lisa reads a lot of books and her latest post reminded me LOL. My challenge is to read 30 books this year and I am 2 behind schedule right now. It’s busy around here as usual and I have 4 shows coming up in the next 6 weeks for my soaps, which means probably burning the midnight oil with my job and all that.  At least being busy keeps me out of trouble!

Here are the finished ones:


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

This is a strange little book. It’s a metaphor, really, but still strange. It begins with the main character, Gregor, waking up in the form of a giant insect, but not understanding what happened to himself.  It’s never explained in the book how this came to be or even what kind of bug he is. It just details this part of Gregor’s life after the metamorphosis and how his family deals with what happened to him and what they should do with him.  Kafka never explained the meaning of this story, but it seems to say a lot about how we treat people when they cannot function for themselves anymore.


The Absolutist by John Boyne

This book was really not what I was expecting at all, but it was a good book. It takes place after WWI in 1919 and begins when a young soldier, Tristan, returns letters to Marian, who is the sister of Tristan’s fellow soldier, Will. Returning these letters are really an excuse for him to come clean about the truth what happened during the war and the circumstances surrounding Will’s death.  The book is written in flashback leading up to the present moment and definitely has a big suprise in the end.  The title refers to conscientious objectors to the war and where do you draw the line of right and wrong in a war.  It’s a sad book, but good.


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

I picked this book because the subject was the meaning of flowers and how flowers could be used to convey messages. Victoria is an 18-year-old girl who was just released from being a ward of the state. She had a troubled past in foster care and now has found a job working in a florist shop designing flower arrangements that hold meaning. Victoria’s past keeps her from being able to develop relationships with people and her past comes back into her life.

The story was interesting, but I could not get past the fact that Victoria is just not very likeable. She is very selfish and has anger issues. It made the story hard to swallow because why is everyone so nice to someone who isn’t very nice back?  So, I’m kind of middling about this book.



Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. Book 1

This book was fun. I didn’t realize is was actually based on the real life of Constance Kopp, who was the first woman deputy in the US in the early 1900s.  Constance was considered a spinster and a very tall and imposing woman.  When she and her sisters are involved in a carriage accident, Constance tries to get restitution from the man at fault, who turns out to be a very powerful businessman in the community. He begins to harrass Constance and her family, but Constance won’t give in and works with the local sheriff to try to bring the men to justice.

I love how strong Constance is and there are some real surprises in the book. I think I will read some of the others to see what else Constance got up to in her life!


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale has “movie” written all over it. I would be really surprised if this isn’t made into one.  It takes place during WWII in France. Again, I pick another story from this time period!

This is the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. When the Germans invade Paris, Isabelle joins the resistance and Vianne remains to rebel in her own way. Each woman has to face dire situations, Isabelle always at risk of being caught and Vianne having a German general billeted in her house.  The book really describes the hardships of an occupied country and what people went through and how they survived.

I really enjoyed this book. It was well written, although a little cliched at times.


I have been having trouble getting into a new book and  I will toss them before I get too far in, which is one of the reasons I am behind schedule.  My Kindle is full of some classics, so I think I am going to just read some of those.

I was asked how I choose my books to read. What I do is peruse my library’s online book selections and then I read reviews on Goodreads to see if it would be interesting to me. Goodreads is much better for honest reviews than Amazon, in my opinion.

What I’m Reading

Not much exciting over the weekend and I didn’t take too many pictures.  We got caught up with a lot of things, including doing some work on my parent’s bathroom.  I love home improvement stuff. It’s really satisfying, even when it isn’t my own house! 😀

Anyway, I realized I hadn’t updated my reading list in a while. In my goal to complete 30 books in 2016, I have finished 17, which is about 2 books behind schedule. It’s summer and I spend a lot of time outside, so less time reading.  I imagine when we fly to Ireland, I will churn out 2 or 3 books on the plane flights!


The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

This is a book that tells the story of young women who were kept captive in an indoor garden. The Gardener (as he was called) tattooed each young woman with butterfly wings on her back and each one was killed on her 21st birthday to preserve her young beauty.  The story begins with the escape of the girls and the narrative is told through the eyes of Maya. What seems cut and dried on the surface is actually a story with a lot of twist and turns.

Overall this was a decent book. I struggled a tiny bit with the premise because with a dozen girls in the garden, you think they could just overpower the Gardener and that would be that. A little hard to swallow that plot point. Other than that, the story had some interesting twists in it at the end, which seemed just a little rushed.


Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold

I got this as a Kindle First book, part of being a Prime member. This book is a translation and I think it was done really well. Sometimes translated books come across as a little stilted or forced, but this one was well done.  The story follows the path of two brothers and how they ended up unwillingly becoming part of Hitler’s SS.  It was a very different perspective for me to have the story told from the German point of view. The war touched everyone and they all handled it in a different way. The brothers step by step gradually became part of the machine and their reasoning and justification was an intriguing read. It’s really difficult to feel any sympathy for either brother, but it’s never really black and white anyway.

The book really is graphic about the front lines of WWII and you really feel the harsh reality of what a country goes through being invaded and how soldiers are treated.  Not the easiest read, but quite good.


The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

This was the first I have read by Alice Hoffman. I might look up some of her other books. I think there was some wish to compare it to Night Circus, but it’s really a different book all together, and much better.

The story takes place in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, so of course you know I liked that. Much of it is set in Coney Island. Coralie is a girl born with webbed fingers. Her father runs a museum of side shows acts, I guess you would say, and Coralie was used as a mermaid, complete with tank and costume to complete the deal. Her father was a brutal man with all of his employees and basically kept Coralie prisoner until she started to sneak out at night.  As the story progressed, her father became more and more desperate as a new show called Dreamland (an actual real life attraction) was to open and would cause the end of his museum.

Eddie is the other character. He is a Jewish man who left the faith and began a life not quite of crime, but definitely dealing in the unsavory part of New York. Eddies finds people and things and he is asked to find a missing young woman. This is where his and Coralie’s stories intertwine in a murder mystery.

I really liked the atmosphere of this book. It definitely takes you back in time. The only thing I didn’t care for was the narrative switching through multiple perspectives by the same characters, which was a little jarring.  There also was a *lot* going on in this book. Lots of sub stories and plots that mostly intertwined, but some were left hanging. A quick and interesting read, though.


At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

I was pretty excited to read this book. Sara Gruen wrote Water For Elephants, which I loved.  This story is set in the 1940s. To avoid scandal in Philadelphia, Maddie, her husband and a friend left the country to hide out in Scotland, despite a war being on.  Maddie’s husband and his friend decided to look for the Loch Ness Monster (or fake the monster) as a way to redeem themselves and be able to go back to Philadelphia.

Maddie is left alone much of the time and really begins to understand her privilege and learns empathy for others, particularly during war time. It’s the story of her personal development from a shallow socialite into a deeper, better person. She also realizes how horrible and manipulative her husband really is.  Left alone at the inn they are staying at, Maddie falls in love with the innkeeper, which obviously causes a lot of trouble.  In many ways, this story is like WFE with the woman married to a horrible man and the outside male trying to protect her. So, maybe nothing new, but I really liked this book.  Definitely recommend it.

What I’m reading

I haven’t updated my book goal on the year for a while. I’m getting through some books! I am on schedule to hit 30 this year (my goal).

When I last left off, I was just getting into To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Is there anyone who hasn’t read this? I actually hadn’t. Not sure why it wasn’t on a required reading list. Anyway, for those that haven’t, this is the story of young Scout and her older brother Jem and basically how they learn about the harsh realities of the world after a a black man is put on trial (wrongly) for sexually assaulting a white woman. Their father is the defendant’s attorney and it divides a town. It was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck, and while I have seen snippets of that on TCM from time to time, I have never seen the whole thing. I need to do that.

After that book and the previous couple of books, I needed something that wasn’t so depressing.  Enter The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris.


Okay, that doesn’t sound so uplifting and it was a bit grisly at times. This is the first in a series of detective novels. The apprentice is American Dr. Thomas Silkstone, who really is not much of an apprentice as the next great anatomist in 18th century England. In this book, he gets involved trying to solve the murder of Lady Lydia Farrell’s brother, which is blamed on her husband. Is he or isn’t he the real killer? Dr. Silkstone is a pioneer in forensics and uses what he knows of anatomy and the study of death to try to solve the murder, along with falling for Lady Lydia. This was a good book, breezy reading and I will probably read some of the other books in the series.

Then I decided to read something everyone else has read. Outlander by Dianna Gabaldon.


This is the story of Claire Randall, a nurse from 1954 who accidentally finds a portal in Scotland that whisks her back in time 200 years. There she meets Jamie and they fall in love and traipse through Scotland going through battles and the like. The premise sounded really interesting and it was at first.  However, I will just say that I didn’t like this book. It was tooooo long and the constant English/Scottish skirmishes were getting boring. Then don’t get me started on the love story. It was fine at first, but when it went down the road of spousal abuse and the heroine being okay with that – game over. I don’t care if people defend it as ‘that’s how it was back then’ – I feel like Claire really wouldn’t be okay with it. She is a fairly strong character and it just didn’t make sense.  Anyway, I slogged my way through the book and I will not be reading any of the others in the series.   Sorry to those that loved this — I don’t get it.

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett


In the same vein as The Club Dumas (only without the devil), this is an antiquarian book mystery. It’s the story of Peter Byerly, a new widower, who finds  a watercolor drawing of a Victorian woman who is the spitting image of his dead wife while perusing old books. He then goes on a search to find out more about the artist and gets mixed up in an old family feud about the origins of a newly discovered Shakespeare work after being hired to confirm its authenticity.  The story of current day is intertwined with the story of how he met and married Amanda – then how these stories intersect.  It was a good book, although a bit simplistic in the characters at times. It certainly was a fast read and you can tell the author has a love of old books.

Just finished was The Templeton Monsters by Lauren Groff.


This is the story of Willie, the descendent of the founders of the town of Templeton (pretty much Cooperstown, NY renamed). She comes home pregnant and disgraced after an affair with her archeology professor. At the same time, the monster of Lake Glimmerglass dies and comes floating to the surface confirming rumors. Willie is informed by her mother that her father (previously unknown to her) was actually a man in Templeton, but won’t say who. Willie uses her research skills to dig through her family history to find any ties as to who her father is, all the while trying to come to terms with her friend’s illness, her pregnancy, and reconnecting with high school friends.  The story wanders into a strange area of ghosts and paranormal activity, which I didn’t really like. The monster was fine and an interesting side story, but the ghost stuff? I don’t believe in ghosts and the one in this story was a little too deus ex machina. I also didn’t care for Willie that much. It’s hard to read if you don’t like the main character when I think we are supposed to.  She was spoiled and had rage issues. The other thing was that the main plot was Willie discovering who her father was and by the end of the book, I didn’t even care. I do like how the author created little charts and put in doctored photos to make it seem like a real historical novel.  I sort of waffle between liking the book or not, but it would be worth a summer read.

Now to find the next book!

What I’m Reading

It’s been a little slower on the reading front. Getting all that painting done and and such. I’ve been really tired at night for reading, but I did manage to finish a few:


An Absent Mind by Eric Rill


This is a short book. It is a story of a family going through the patriarch having Alzheimer’s disease from diagnosis until the end. It is told from 5 points of view in various chapters: Saul, the father with Alzheimer’s, his wife Monique, daughter Francine, son Joey and Saul’s doctor.  Each person tells their version of what happens and what really stuck out to me is how the other family members would perceive something that was not what the other person felt at all. There was not much communication between them until it was too late.  The author was drawing on personal experience of one of his parents having Alzheimer’s and it’s really a look into how a family tries to function in the face of a terrible disease. 


The Dead Letter by Seeley Regester


This was an interesting little book. I picked it up because it was the first mystery novel written by an American author in the Victorian Era.  It involves a murder – and what mystery doesn’t??  The story was fairly straight forward in knowing really near the beginning who did it, but the mystery comes in how to prove it.  Now this book was written around 1870, so there were no phones or fingerprint technology or television or any fast way of getting information from person to person. Crimes must have been so hard to solve back then!  The story centers around Richard Redfield, a young man who was an apprentice with a lawyer. The lawyer’s daughter was engaged to be married and her fiance was murdered one night for unknown reasons. Suspicion starts to fall on Richard and he works with a famous detective to try to prove who the real killer was. 


A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway


A classic. There are so many classic books that I never read in high school or college, so I try to fit those in my reading lists each month. I got on the Hemingway trail from reading The Paris Wife, reviewed here. That made me want to read The Sun Also Rises, which I reviewed here. Then I decided to read his pinnacle novel, A Farewell To Arms. It’s very autobiographical (as was TSAR). Hemingway served as an ambulance driver in WWI and was injured. Same goes for the main character, Frederick. He is an American who joins the Italian army for reasons which are never really made clear. He meets a nurse named Catherine and they fall in love during his convalescence.  Then they try to figure out how to create a life away from the war, which means Frederick must desert the army. The story is anti-war in a lot of ways, although I don’t think that was the main intent of the novel. The book certainly does a good job of describing what war was like in the trenches and describing the Italian countryside. That was what I liked about the book. I have to say, like with Sun, I didn’t care for the characters themselves. Frederick was selfish and Catherine was weak, clingy and emotionally unstable. It’s funny, I found the female characters in both of Hemingway’s novels to have the same qualities to them. Maybe this is why he was married multiple times in real life? I get the feeling he didn’t really understand women all that well. I know that Farewell to Arms is supposed to be his greatest novel, but I actually liked The Sun Also Rises better.  I think the next one of his I will venture to will be The Old Man and the Sea.


Anyway, these books were actually a little depressing to read all in a row!  Currently in my reader is To Kill A Mockingbird. 

What I’m Reading

Book update! I have a goal of 30 books this year. These are the ones I’ve completed so far.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George


The premise of this book is unique. Jean Perdu is a bookseller who owns a floating bookstore in Paris. It is called the Literary Apothecary and he ‘treats’ his customers with prescriptions of books based on their troubles.  He has spent 20 years doing this, hiding from his own grief over a lost lost and finding an unread letter by her when she left him. This letter sends him on sort of a reawakening of his feelings by sailing his book barge down the Seine and meeting many different people on the way to answer the letter.  There are a lot of great quoteable moments in the book. I loved how the book started, but I did start to skim a little about 3/4 of the way through because it started to seem repetitive, but the book was satisfying in the end. It was really about the complex relationships between people and learning to let yourself feel emotions.


The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng


The basis of this book is about gardening, so of course you know I was all over that.  The story takes place in 1949 Malaya. The main character, Yun Ling, is a retired judge who was held in a Japanese prisoner camp  as a young girl along with her sister. She was the only survivor from the camp and wanted to build a garden in her sister’s honor. She became the apprentice of a Japanese master gardener, Arimoto. Fast forward to 1949 after her judge career prosecuting Japanese war criminals and she has returned to the master’s gardens after learning she is ill. Then she writes her memories down and we learn what happened in the camp and how she survived and what secrets it held. This was definitely a good book. Yun Lin is full of anger and a lot of the book is her coming to terms with this.  This was a good book. Hard to read at times, but the writing was really beautiful. I loved the imagery the author created.


The Club Dumas – Arturo Perez-Revert


When I started reading this book, I didn’t realize that it was the basis for the movie The Ninth Gate with Johnny Depp, which we had seen. The interesting thing is that the movie focused on the smaller story in the book. The book was much more interesting than the movie.  If you love old books and book history, this has all of that. Lucas Corso is sort of a mercenary who deals in antique books and authenticating them. He is drawn into finding and matching copies of an ancient book and its possible connection with an unknown manuscript by Alexandre Dumas, while at the same time scenes play out that mirror The Three Musketeers with a lot of intrigue and all that. It’s quite the mystery with a lot of red herrings in there and the ending is somewhat different than the movie, and I’ll just leave that there.



Circling the Sun by Paula McClain


I was waiting and waiting for this book to become available at the library. It’s the second book by McClain, the first being The Paris Wife, which I enjoyed very much. This time she writes about the early life of Beryl Markham. Beryl was a woman way ahead of her time. She was English born, but raised by her father in Africa and spent most of her life there. She became the first woman to hold a training license for race horses and the first woman pilot to cross the Atlantic. The book covers the time from her early childhood through the 1930s or so. It was a very engaging book, although I think the problem lies in that Beryl herself wrote her own autobiography called West with the Night, which is highly praised as fantastic writing (and on my wait list). So, this book is a fictionalized telling of the same story, but with more focus on the relationship she had with Denis Hatton.  In my mind, Beryl didn’t seem the sort to be mooning over a man. She was much more forward and independent. Her life was marked with a lot of scandal because she did what she wanted. I admire a really strong woman who will buck convention. This was a good read, especially if you don’t know anything about Beryl Markham.


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What I’m reading

Here are a few other books that I finished recently. I was reading a little more a couple months ago, but I’ve just been so tired at night lately that I haven’t wanted to read as per usual. I’ve just wanted to shut my mind off. I know everyone else gets like that on occasion.  The good thing about borrowing books from the library on my Kindle is that they are due in 2 weeks rather than the 4 if I had a hard copy of the book. That pushes me to read them a little faster.



The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

After I read the book The Paris Wife, it made me want to read the actual book that Hemingway wrote during this time period. It’s funny how the characters in the semi-biographical book morphed into the actual writings. Anyway, the book itself. I can see why people like Hemingway’s style of writing. Sentences are crisp and not overdone. They get to the point and it reads quite fast. I had a little trouble when there was a lot of dialogue because Hemingway didn’t use any Joe said or Frank said or whatever to distinguish who is talking. So, at times I had trouble figuring out which character was speaking.

As for the story itself, it follows a group what would seem to be 20 somethings in Paris in the 1920s (there’s that decade again!!). It is post WWI and all of the characters were affected at some point by the war. The story is told through the eyes of Jake and follows him and his friends through a ton of drinking and trying to find happiness in their lives, all culminating with a group trip to Pamplona to watch bull fighting (which Hemingway loved in real life). It seems the big themes of the novel were wanting what you couldn’t have, loneliness and drinking. Lots of drinking. I actually didn’t like any of the characters except for Jake. The others were pretty unlikable. I am interested in some other of Hemingway’s books.Probably this winter I will read another one.






The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I think this was made into a movie, right? Nothing like being late to the party on popular stuff. Anyway, I had no idea of what this book was about. It’s the story of 14-year old Lily and her housekeeper/surrogate mother Rosaleen. Lily’s mother was killed when she was just 4 years old and Lily was raised by her abusive father in a racially charged town in South Carolina. After Rosaleen was jailed for getting in an argument with some white men, Lily broke her out and they ran away to a city that was on the back of one of her mother’s pictures. There they met a trio of bee keeping sisters and Lily learns a lot more than she bargained for about her family. The book has a strong mother theme and uses the bees to help symbolize family and what it takes to keep a hive going.  It was a good book and read really easily. I found the dialogue to be heavy handed and cliche at times, which took away from the story. I did like how the women were all strong characters, too, each in their own way.


The Martian by Andy Weir

Yep, the popular movie! I had put myself on the wait list for this book months ago and it finally came about a month ago.  For those that haven’t read it or seen the movie, it’s the story of Mark Watney, who gets left behind on Mars when his crew members thought he was dead. It’s the story of his fight for survival and resourcefulness to live to be rescued.

I have to say, I really wanted to like this book more than I did given how hugely popular it is. It was engaging at first, but then I started to get bored with all of the technical details of how Watney jury rigged everything to make what he wanted and it always worked. It seemed every other chapter was “I’m going to try something super dangerous. It could be my last day” Well, at halfway through the book, I doubt that. 🙄  I also found his character to not have a ton of depth. There was very little emotion in his diary writings save for jokes and an occasional thought about his coworkers or parents. He was quite flip most of the time. He never seemed to really break down and talk about the people in his life or anything. I get why this book is popular. It read like a movie.

Does anyone else see the similarity in the covers between the Hemingway and Weir books? Interesting.

What are you reading?

What I’m Reading

I have finished a few books out of my Kindle that I thought I would share.  These were finished over the last couple of months with the exception of Ticker, which I finished a long time ago, but never did a review on.


The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

A lot had been written about Ernest Hemingway’s wives and Hadley Richardson is often referred to as the Paris Wife because the majority of their married life was spent in Paris in the 1920s.  I think that does disservice to Hadley. She obviously held a special place in Hemingway’s heart. His autobiography A Moveable Feast was sort of an homage to Hadley and their time together in Paris. Anyway, The Paris Wife is told in Hadley’s voice and was put together through letters and correspondence and interviews.  Of course, the ending is not a surprise, but I think that this really is an interesting look into Hadley’s mind of what it was like to be involved in the life of someone as volatile as Hemingway, particularly as it was on the cusp of his success. I definitely recommend this book.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This book has an interesting format. It is told solely through the viewpoint of the handmaid Ofglen, so you can only discern what is happening by her reactions to what is going on around her.

It takes place in a dystopian society where a strict religious leadership takes over the United States (or at least part of it). The story is told from the point of view of a handmaid, who basically has one purpose in life, which is to provide a child to a prominent childless family in a time when nuclear and past chemical use had left a lot of sterility or the possibility of genetic defects. She is basically a prisoner and she describes what life is like for her and women in general under this regime. It seems like the time period would be about now or may in the early 2000s.  It actually makes you think about if it could be possible for something like this to happen and you realize that it really is not that far fetched.  Scary, in fact.

Note – if you read the ereader version, make sure you read to the end of the book. There was the usual blurb after you finish telling you to tweet/FB that you finished. Then *after* that was an epilogue to the book. So don’t miss that. 



Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

This was a bit of steampunk fluff, so if you like that, you may like this book. This seems like a YA book. Steampunk books are set in the victorian time period with machinery and gadgets inspired by steam powered engines. Really they are fantasy/science fiction and fun.  Anyway, Ticker is about Penny Farthing, who is a girl with a mechanical heart that was made for her by a scientist who started going crazy. Her heart is nearing the end of its useful life and Penny and her friends get involved in trying to locate the scientist and rescue her parents from a kidnapping.  It’s easy to read and while clunky in spots and heavy handed with dialogue, it’s a breezy read.



Serena by Ron Rash.

I seem to have a thing for the 1920s lately in decor, books, and other things (Downton Abbey).  This book is set in 1929 in rural North Carolina. It is the story of a husband and wife team of ruthless timber barons.  It’s fiction, but there is a lot of historical detail in this book and the author does a great job with the atmosphere.  While both Serena and her husband George are both rather unlikeable in the way they are willing to dispose of workers and basically ruin the land, Serena is particularly cold-hearted, pretty much a sociopath, really.  She is willing to do whatever it takes and permanently remove anyone who stands in her way, including the woman who has George’s illegitimate son. The writing is very good and the book moves along at a good pace. In fact, I had some of that “5 more minutes” at bedtime which ended up being 45 minutes. 😀  It’s definitely a dark book, but worth reading. Apparently the movie made from it was terrible, so just read the book.


I find it interesting that my latest books involved strong female protagonists. Just coincidence, but interesting nonetheless.

Currently in my Kindle is Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”.  Reading The Paris Wife made me want to check out his books.  It’s been easy to fall into so far and I do see why he is so revered as an author.

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Book Review: The Diet Fix

This review is long overdue. I actually was trying to get it done yesterday, but all the thinking I have to do when writing a review was hurting my head, so I switched over to the settee update (more fun, although messier) and figured I would talk about it today. Then I read a post by Debby referencing this very book!

Anyway – I found that amusing, which proves it doesn’t take much.  🙄 

Here is the book.

The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work (amazon affiliate link)

I have followed Dr. Yoni Freedhoff’s blog, Weighty Matters, for quite a while.  I have even quoted it on the blog a few times because he just makes a lot of sense.  So, when he came out with a book, I was quite intrigued to read it. In fact, I actually bought a copy instead of waiting for it to come to my local library.

I have to say that he should have named the book differently. It makes it sound like it is a diet book in the traditional sense, which it is not. However, I suppose a book entitled “The every day things you can do to lose weight slowly and sensibly and live happily” wouldn’t really sell, right?

The Diet Fix has 3 parts to it. The first part talks about the issues with diets and why they fail. He often states the term traumatic dieter for people who have dieted on and off for most of their lives (which is a lot of us).  He points out many of the reasons people are unable to succeed with certain types of diets or mindsets about diets and how we tend to turn these things into self degradation.

The second part is implementing a 10 step reset plan to help you succeed. He says 10 steps in 10 days, but really some steps you can take a long time to get down. Not a lot of information is new information to serial dieters, but it is presented in a cohesive way with some additions that make sense.  Seems like I keep saying this makes sense, doesn’t it? Guess that is the theme here.  Things like a food diary (but without judgement), planning meals and snacks with protein to head hunger off before it comes on, how to handle social situations, exercise, etc.

The last section of the book goes into more detail about nutrition and how to to change your mindset about food and exercise (and other people who might sabatoge you), medical conditions and medications that can affect your weight, and a bonus section of recipes from Dr. Freedhoff’s wife.

My biggest personal takeaways from this book were:

1. Incorporate a morning snack. This is something that I always felt I shouldn’t need since I eat a bigger breakfast and should be able to last until lunch. Well, that isn’t always the case and I could be ravenous a couple hours after breakfast. Instead of fighting that, I have decided to make my breakfast just a bit smaller and have a timed mid morning snack (about 150 calories) that includes protein.

2. I think more than anything else this book is about behavior. Not really so much what you are eating, although that is important. It’s setting yourself up for success with a series of tools no matter what eating plan you want to follow.

3.  The biggest and most important thing? Your best weight may not be what everyone else tells you it should be. Your best weight is whatever weight you reach while you are living the healthiest life you can actually enjoy. Suffering should not ever be a part of a diet.

So in a nutshell, I did like this book. I think it has a lot to offer, really especially if you have been a lifelong dieter and have the suffering mentality and beating yourself up.